Monday, February 11, 2013

Run? ME?

Yes, it has been a while. No, I am not dead…
January 12th and 13th, I ran in the Houston 5K (Saturday) and the Half-Marathon (Sunday). I have never done two events on back-to-back days, so this was a first for me. But hey, the bling gets better - you get THREE medals, not two!
I stayed at a Mariott downtown, so it was an easy walk to the start for both days. Saturday's race was a little warm, and downright muggy by the time we finished. but it still felt good to get out and do some running... don't tell anybody I said that.
Sunday was a different story altogether - not only was it a lot cooler (almost cold) but it was raining. Raining at the start and for about the first 6 miles. It was an ugly run for me from the very outset. You start with a climb up an overpass, and the rain water was pouring down the hill, so your shoes get completely filled with water, over and over. No fun at all. I made a decent time of it for the first 6 miles, and then the cold and wetness got to my feet. By the time I made it to the turnaround at mile 9, my feet felt like bricks. At times, it was painful to put my feet down. I ended up walking quite a bit of the last 4 miles. But I finished, that's all I can say. I wandered around a bit trying to find the place where you pick up the extra medal for completing both races, and then started toward the hotel and a hot shower. A lady walked by handing out the mylar warming sheets, so I took one and wrapped up. The race went right by the front of my hotel, so I slowed down to cheer on some of the full marathon runners going by. Pretty cool to watch for a bit, then upstairs, shower, pack, and head for home.
This past weekend was the Run For Chocolate 5K and 15K in Dallas. I did this event last year, and many of us started that day wearing garbage bags to keep from freezing in bitter wind. Fortunately, it did warm up enough to discard the bags about halfway into the 15K.
This year, I thought about signing up but never got around to it until my daughter (who had come down to Fair Park to meet me at the finish last year) told me she and her husband wanted to sign up for the 5K. This was a very nice surprise for me, as association with sports events has been largely limited to driving SAG support for my long rides. Needless to say, I jumped in immediately! I figured I could do the 15K while they did their run/walk, and we would finish not too far apart.
Well, once we started getting more information, we found out the 5K would start 40 minutes before the 15K, and Amanda and Matt would be in an early corral, while I would be in one of the last 15K corrals - which meant our start times would be even further apart. Oh well.
I picked them up at their apartment and we drove into Dallas, and once we got to I-30 going toward Fair Park, it was evident that the race would be very well attended. Traffic was horrible, but the weather was a lot nicer this time around. Once we got close to the Cotton Bowl stadium, we crawled. When we got closer to an open gate, they hopped out to go to the 5K start. 20 minutes later, I managed to find a parking space, put my windbreaker on and started the walk toward the start. The last of the 5K corrals was about to start the race, so after a potty break I headed out to the starting line. It wasn't too long before they started queuing up the corrals for the 15K, but it took them a bit longer to get set for the 15K start… and then it was another 15 minutes before my corral was ready.
Finally, we were off! It only took a couple miles before I was warm enough to take off the windbreaker and tie it around my waist. At the first aid station I looked at my Garmin and was extremely surprised that my first mile was under 11 minutes, and the second mile was just over 11! Usually my time starts dropping off pretty quickly, but I felt decent and was sticking to the 4/1 after the first mile, so I was able to recover. I would walk through the aid stations (mostly because I didn't want to slip in the water), and then get back into a steady rhythm. I started looking at the Garmin each time it beeped a mile, and I was hanging right there around 12 minute miles, so about mile 6 I decided to try to make sure my average was under 12 when I finished.
Hand-slapping as many police officers as I could at the intersections, I kept moving. At mile 8, one officer was standing in the middle of the road, high-fiving everybody that went by, so I popped him and he shouted "Keep it up…it means something!" - reading the logo off my chest.
Making the last turn toward the finish, I saw Amanda standing up on a concrete planter edge. When I got closer, she hopped down and started trotting next to me, and we went all the way across the finish line that way. She and Matt wore shirts from our non-profit, which match my tri top, so I hope we will get some good pics. Matt took a couple as we went by, and those will look pretty decent after I crop them.
We stopped at the race banner and asked a lady there to take a picture of all 3 of us together, so this is now the first recorded event where more than one of our non-profit shirts were seen. Then a long walk to the truck, back to the hotel, lunch, and then head home.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two-Time Cardiac Survivor – Two-Time Ironman!

Ironman Arizona 2012 --
Nov 25th, 2012 - It has been a week since the Ironman Arizona race, and while I have survived the trip home, quite a bit of recovery and the Thanksgiving holiday/family stuff, I have had some time to think through my race, and its failures - my failures. I will say this, though… while the race for me did not go as planned, there were many bright spots in the day.
The trip out to Tempe was pleasantly uneventful. The truck was loaded with bikes, wetsuits, and all the equipment for three of us. That is the great thing about driving as opposed to flying - I know we can over-pack and not have a problem… lots of extra bike needs, plenty of nutrition - we were all set.
Once we got to Tempe, we were able to check in to the rentals, and drop off all our gear. Pretty nice accommodations - swimming pool, hot tub, pool table, a decently sized kitchen and a garage to lock up all the bikes, tools, packing tubs, and other stuff we didn't want laying on the floor in the house.
After emptying the truck, we went to the Ironman Village, wandered through the vendor tents being set up, and into the Ironman store. As before in Ironman Florida, I bought a cycling kit from the race, knowing that if I didn’t complete the race, I would never wear the kit. Next I met up with the IronHeart Racing team so we could go through athlete check-in as a group. This year's race was to be a bit different for me; I was going to be shadowed for parts of the race by a camera. I had agreed last summer to be part of a documentary being put together by the IronHeart Racing team, to demonstrate that even after major cardiac events, people can still participate at the highest level of the sport. IronHeart is primarily made up of cardiac survivors who participate in endurance events and support smaller heart-related charities… right up my alley.
Being there early Thursday, check-in was not crowded at all. We were able to get in and out without any delays. This year, Ironman was giving to the athletes a really nice backpack with the Ironman Arizona logo stitched on the flap… so THAT is what $675 buys me -  a 17-hour window of pain and a really nice bag to carry what's left of me home.

After check-in, we were hungry, so we made our way to FatBurgers - they have some pretty good veggie burgers, and some REALLY good onion rings! While I was waiting for my food, an older man standing there looked at our backpacks, and asked me "So - did you get those fancy bags at that fair down by the river?" - trying to not laugh, I explained the race to him. I guess there are a lot people at Ironman race venues who really don't know there is a big race going on...even with all the signage that is posted.
One of our forum members had set up a get-together, so we headed over there for a bit before I had to leave for dinner with the IronHeart group. Dinner at Monti’s and meeting more of the IronHeart group for the first time, and then it was time to head to the house and unpack our stuff.
Friday started with another trip to the Ironman Village (you cannot shop just once!) and then a video run with the IronHeart team. I had scheduled in advance a massage so I got that taken care of just before meeting up with the team to head over to the athlete dinner. One of the highlights of the evening was seeing the IronHeart documentary trailer on the big screen.
Once back at the house, we checked over all the bikes, made sure all the bike repair stuff was safely stowed in the seat bags and put our race numbers on the bikes and helmets.
Saturday we loaded up the bikes and transition bags for the afternoon check-in, and then we were off to the practice swim in Tempe Town Lake. Wow! That was rather chilly water! We knew from volunteering last year that the water would be colder than what we normally swim in, and we had done some wetsuit swims at Barton Springs at home, but that first little shock was a bit “refreshing” to say the least. Once in and moving though, it was actually a nice swim, albeit a whole lot less crowded than what it would be Sunday morning. I did a complete loop to get a feel for the swim and the sunshine in both directions, and I felt getting out that as long as I didn’t get beat up too much by the other swimmers, I would be okay. After turning in our gear, we chilled for a bit and then out for an early dinner, followed by a final review of special needs bags, and it was time to hit the sack.
Up at 3:00am; the usual race-day bagel and peanut butter breakfast, get the nutrition stuff ready, and then it was time… Ironman #2! We were able to get a parking space close to transition, and that would be important later. I had to meet up with my designated IronHeart camera guy, who would be following me throughout pre-race activities. Once we got to the transition area, we went our separate ways to our own bikes and began the preparation – getting the nutrition and tracking devices set up, final additions to our transition bags, and getting ready for the swim. Once all that was done – I accidentally left my swim booties in the bottom of my morning clothes bag when I dropped it in the collection box, so I had to run back and get those – we met together with TriDoc Tuggle for a brief prayer. Then it was time to head to the swim start, and stand around for about 30 minutes.
Race management kept stressing repeatedly over the loudspeakers that all athletes needed to be ready to get into the water as soon as the group was called. Last year, we watched a number of athletes getting into the water as the cannon sounded for the start, and we did not want to get caught up in that mess. We watched the pros hopping in and then we “normal” people started crowding into the dock area so we would be able to get in when allowed.
Finally, it was time for us to jump in… hold the goggles so you don’t lose them, and jump away from the dock. We swam out to the where the kayaks were keeping us separated from the pros at the start line, and started treading water, keeping the feet moving so we didn’t get too cold. I remembered the view from the river side from last year, looking out at the swimmers and the bridges above them, so I took a minute to look up and around, and take it all in. I recognize that for any number of reasons I may never be in this spot again, so I have learned to appreciate it as much as I can when given the opportunity.
It wasn’t too much longer before the pros started. BOOM! the cannon went, and they were off. Then, a few minutes later, it was our turn. Again, the cannon shot loudly, and it was a mass of 2500+ bodies flailing in the water, trying to make some headway without getting drowned. I did the best I could to make myself some space, but that was difficult with the wide swath of people across the swim start line now funneling into a much narrower formation (think a flock of geese in the sky) and I in fact was having to kick more than one body off my legs. Having done the whole loop on the practice swim, I was more comfortable knowing how many bridges we would swim under and knowing the path of the buoys in the lake. Making the first turn into the short leg of the "U", there was a lot of traffic, as expected. I swam out around the handful of folks who were hugging the corners. Turning the second corner into the long leg back to the finish, I realized I had a little more space around me. I was able to get into a rhythm, and I could feel my shoulders loosen up from the self-imposed stress of the first leg. I noticed that I was consistently swimming with two guys who were following a similar track in the water, and the three of us formed a pod that kept a number of people from swimming on top of us. There was one more female swimmer who crossed into our path and swam into the guy on my left, but he bumped her off away from us. I think she realized each of us three were probably twice as big as she was, and figured out there had to be a safer path. We approached the final turn toward the exit, and the three of us spread out for different sections of the steps. High-fiving each other as we climbed out of the water, we were all happy to exit the water.
Swim - 1:30:59
Once peeled out of the wetsuit by a couple of talented "strippers", it was a trot to the transition area, with a now-collected camera guy behind me. Another great volunteer ran and retrieved my T1 bag, and came with me to the changing tent. One look inside and I knew I would be changing outside - I didn't see a single empty chair. I went back to an open space in the grass and tried to untie my bag, but the fingers were not cooperating, and sitting there, I began to feel the effect of being kicked pretty hard in my right thigh in the swim. The awesome lady who had originally snagged my bag offered to open it and get my stuff out. I told her which ziplocs to get out while I peeled off my shirt. I switched into my IronHeart cycling jersey and wrapped my towel around my lower body while I peeled off my shorts with the other hand. My lady volunteer laughed and said "tell me when I can turn around" - extremely considerate and so skillfully helpful, I was lucky to have somebody who knew what they were doing. She handed me the race belt with the tracker and bib on it, and then into the bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses, leaving my great new lady friend to pack all my wet stuff into the bag, it was time to get to the bike, stopping briefly at the tent to get lathered up with sunscreen by yet another great female volunteer. We were off to the races!
T1 - 14:20
Once I got on the bike, I realized the excitement of the swim still had me ramped up, which happens for me just about every race. I focused on getting my breathing and heart rate into a more regular pattern, and then into a consistent cadence. A 3-loop course for the bike, the first few miles are spent going through town from Transition out to the Beeline Highway. Once on the highway, it is a straight 15-16 miles out to the turnaround, with a fairly steady climb out and a slow descent back. I could feel a bit of tightness in the right leg, and I knew this ride wasn't going to be as fast as I had hoped. A bit of headwind on the way out, I made it up to the turnaround, made the u-turn across the timing mat, and cranked up the pedal speed coming downhill. I managed to pass a number of people who had passed me on the way out. I took advantage of the downhill and the speed as long as I could - fat guys roll downhill faster. Rolling back into town, I saw some people I knew who were starting their second loop. Making the u-turn at Transition, I watched a couple of pros fly past; wow, to be able to ride that fast…
The second and third loops were uneventful, other than a stop at an aid station for a potty break on loop two. The Beeline was just as fun coming back in the second time, and the third. I felt pretty fortunate not having had any flats, because there were a number of people I passed who were having to change tires. Once I came back down the hill on the third loop, I realized my lower back was trying to have a very loud conversation with the rest of my body. By the time I made it back to Transition, I knew it was definitely time to get off that saddle! I also knew my ride was slower than I had wanted it to be.
Bike - 6:44:02
I have to admit - it is pretty cool being able to get off the bike and hand it to a volunteer to rack. With cycling shoes on, it was good that we were on the grass rather than sliding around on pavement. I snagged my T2 bag and sat down again outside, knowing the changing tent by then was likely hot and sticky inside. With yet another awesome volunteer helping me with my bag and its contents, I was out of the cycling jersey and shoes, and into the running shoes and tri top. Grabbing my bag of M&Ms and a water cup, I stopped at the tent exit for the second round of sunscreen. Finally, the last leg of Ironman was here!
T2 - 7:33
Here is where it all went downhill fast, figuratively speaking. After the water and a few of the M&Ms, I trotted off to start the run. I spoke with a number of the IronHeart support team on the way by the run start, and then was ready to start my run/walk sequence. I made it into the first mile, and could tell the right leg and lower back were going to be a problem. I felt I had plenty of time to get the race completed, so before too long I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to walk almost the entire marathon. Every so often I would try to run a short segment, but my body had had enough. I knew my time for Arizona was going to be much slower than Florida last year. So the decision was made - enjoy it as much as possible, get to the finish, and talk to people along the way… just keep moving forward. A couple of us had joked about being the last people to finish, and that we were going to pull a wagon and pick up the cones from the race course, and now it looked like that was going to be the case for me. I don't like running on gravel, and there is quite a bit of it on this course. On my second and third loop of the run, the gravel section is really dark, and it occurred to me that even if I had been running, I would have been walking this part. Just as that thought entered my head, a woman just in front of me stumbled in a hole on the path. Fortunately, she managed to grab the runner next to her to stabilize herself and not get hurt.
I came up on a friend of mine at the start of my last loop, and he decided to walk with me - I think as much to watch me medically as it was to keep me motivated. As we did the paved section along the river, Brian convinced me to jog the distance between 2 light poles and then walk two lengths. We did that for four or five repetitions, until the blisters on the bottom of my feet made their appearance known. From then on, there was no running. We would talk to everybody that we met on the course, even cheering on a lady that was going out on her last loop when we were finishing up, and telling her to keep up her speed. We didn't know it then, but Valerie was to be the last person to finish before the midnight deadline. I met a couple of the BT folks, and watched a challenged athlete trot on by…Sarah is an amazing lady!
Walking the last section of gravel before the finish area, we met up with one of my IronHeart folks, who then called one of the camera guys… yeah, let's document the slow, fat bald guy out here by himself. But I didn't care - it was about to be finished, and I was really happy that midnight was still 25 minutes away while the finish line was only a quarter-mile away. I told Brian about the cone story, and decided I was going to do that, so just before making the turn into the finisher's chute, I picked up one of the cones and jogged down the chute with it, high-fiving a number of spectators and slapping hands with Mike Reilly while he was laughing about the cone.
Run - 8:03:06
I was completely blown away by the crowd at the finish; it is so much more of a party the closer you get to the midnight deadline. The people are cheering really loud, reaching out to slap your hand, pushing you to that finish line, celebrating your effort. With the IronHeart folks waiting, the finish line was crowded, but I appreciate the pro finishers being there to hang medals around the necks of us late arrivals. There truly is great cameraderie amongst triathletes.
I was the last of the IronHeart folks to finish, but the rest of them were all at the finish line (patiently) waiting, along with my friends who had also raced. Hugs all around (and admittedly some just so they would hold me up) and then I stood still long enough for my finisher's picture (I really should learn how to smile). Selene's husband Eloy had gone to FatBurgers and bought a burger and fries for me, so I sat down on the curb and ate while Briana, Selene and Eloy retrieved bags and bikes.

I know there are still things for me to figure out about what went wrong, and I will do that. But what went right? I PR'ed the swim by a couple minutes, and I survived the bike and "run". I met so many encouraging people; some who recognized the jerseys from the trailer, some who were just crossing my path in the race. I got to celebrate a number of my friends' Ironman finish, some of them first-timers. Chrissie Wellington's statement "smile as much as you can" kept popping into my head, and I did, while I was "embracing the suck" - thanks, Macca, cuz I had a LOT of suck going on this day. But a vertical finish at any Ironman is something to be enjoyed, and I did!
Race Time - 16:40:00…
Ironman - FOREVER!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And You Think YOU Have It Bad?, or...

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.

This has been an ugly week for me. Last Monday morning at 4:00, I was awakened by what felt like somebody was stabbing me in the lower left back. Dang near knocked me out of the bed! I got up and took some Advil and rubbed in some heat, thinking it was a late reaction to a pulled muscle from my 94-mile ride Saturday...but even that didn't make sense to me. I managed to get back to sleep, and the morning shower did not provide any additional information, or pain.
Halfway to work, it hit me again. I had to keep adjusting in the seat to try and get comfortable. Once I got to work, walking in from the parking lot seemed to help a bit. But by noon, the fire was back. I popped in a few more Advil and walked the hall for a bit. By the end of the day, things had not improved - and I had a swim on the training plan.
It was a pretty slow swim, but I managed 2750 meters. But by about 9:00pm, I had decided it was time to go to the ER. I have been in this hospital way too many times lately; first, the bike crash Labor Day weekend which took me out of our planned relay tri, and now this.
I signed in and took a seat close to the door into the screening area, realizing it might be a while before my turn came for triage. This was the first time that night that it crossed my mind that there were still folks out there worse off than I. I looked around at the small crowd in the room… one man sitting against the wall, with crutches to the side of his chair – from the freshness of the plaster, I guessed he was waiting on paperwork so he could leave; a young couple opposite the crutches, she clearly being in some type of withdrawal tremors; an older woman sitting a few rows behind me, very much in pain with the majority of her left foot swathed in cotton wrap; and more toward the back of the lobby, away from the rest of the folks, what seemed to be a sizable Hispanic family, huddled quietly but with very concerned expressions on the older members’ faces.
I am very much a people watcher… you listen to what is being said around you, and try to imagine what is going on. Sometimes my images turn out to be correct, sometimes not.
As I was sitting there, the door to the interview room opened, and a nurse escorted an older woman out toward the lobby. I was sitting in the double-wide chair closest to the door, so as she got closer, I stood to let her take my seat. She smiled and gestured for me to sit where I was, saying the chair was certainly big enough for the two of us. Once she got situated, she asked why I was there. I told her that I thought it might be a kidney stone based on where the pain was located, but that I was just guessing. She explained that her husband was back in the ER area getting checked on, because he had come in with an irregular heartbeat. “But he’s a stubborn old coot. He will be fine.” I wondered if she was trying to persuade herself of that, more so than telling me anything. She proceeded to explain he had prior arrhythmia issues, and when I said I could relate to that, and after being told I was too young to experience that, I explained the heart attack and the triple bypass. Then this wonderful little woman explained she was a 35-year liver transplant survivor, done back when “we didn’t have any of this great technology to prevent rejection and all those infections.”  The more she told me, the more I was amazed. I said that my heart issues paled in comparison to the issues she and her husband have had to face. This lady was and still is a true fighter… and as she says, it is her turn to fight for her husband since he stood by her through all the “fuss” during her liver issues. This was the second time I realized I didn’t have things so badly that night. She said this was her opportunity to give back to him. I told her I admired her for that thought, because I felt the same way. That was when she asked about the red band on my left wrist, so I told her about us forming the non-profit, about the Ironman races, and how the IronHeart group was such an inspiration.
When they called my name, this quiet little lady put her hand on my arm and gave me a “You better take care of yourself. You still have a lot to do.” Hmmm….
Once into the ER area, after talking to a great doc, they moved me to a “stall”, one of four beds in a single room, all separated by curtains and walls which reminded me of car wash stalls. I noticed when we walked around the corner into the area, a police officer was sitting at the entrance. As it turned out, the two stalls on the far side were occupied by women, one of which was the younger lady I had seen in the lobby with what appeared to be withdrawal issues. The other woman, a bit older and a whole lot more belligerent, made enough noise for all of us put together. Anyway, not too long after this, they put me in a wheelchair and rolled me into the CAT scan. A couple pics later and I was on the way back to my bed. My next visitor was a talkative young nurse who said she was good at drawing blood and putting in the IV needles. I remembered to tell her I had already been stabbed Friday at my doctor’s office, so she avoided that area. But she WAS good at what she did – almost no pain at all. It wasn’t too long after the blood-taking that she took the vials to the lab and returned to give me some pain meds thru the IV. I slept long enough to empty one IV bag and still not feel her come in and disconnect the IV tube.
After waking up, and making a trip to the restroom, my doctor came in to tell me that I indeed had a 6mm stone, that she would be prescribing pain pills and that I needed to get an appointment scheduled with my doc asap. She also gave me a referral to a urologist in case I needed it.
Exiting the hospital about 6:00 am, I felt pretty good – no doubt there were good pain meds from the IV still in my body. I went home, took a shower, and drove to work. I figured I might as well get in a couple hours of work while I waited for the doctors to get into the office before I called. When I called my GP, I told them what was going on, and the response I received was “we can see you tomorrow at 11”… yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. The next call was to the urologist from the referral. Oddly enough, the initial response from them was exactly the same thing. I was getting a bit irritated at that point, but reached for my wallet to give them my insurance information. When I picked up the phone to give the nurse the information, she said quickly “before we go into this, on a 1 to 10 scale, what is your pain level right now?” When I told her about an 8, her answer was “Can you get to our office in the next 25 minutes?” I said I would be there even if I had to get a speeding ticket or two.
Once there, and after a fairly short wait in the lobby, I was ushered back to see the doc. Dr. Jones had already looked at all the test results from the hospital, so he knew the size of the stone and the blood results. He explained a couple of options, and I told him I had a race in a month, which we agreed ruled out any waiting for it to happen naturally. He started to explain the surgical removal process with the question “Do you know what a stent is?” I just smiled and said “Yes, I have 5 in my chest right now.” Caught him by surprise with that one…”well, yours are like a half-inch long and titanium. This one is rubber tubing and 12 inches long.” His next question was just “what have you eaten today?” After the “one small chocolate milk, one coffee and a third of a small Gatorade,” he asked if I wanted to do the surgery today. I said the sooner, the better, and he called his nurse to get in touch with the surgical center. The nurse came in and asked again what all I had eaten since midnight. I was scheduled for a 2pm arrival and a 3:30 surgery. I drove back to work, and completed all their paperwork online while waiting for the clock to tick to 1:40.
I arrived at the surgical center a few minutes early. The intake nurse told me she had contacted the insurance company for approval already and handed me a bill for almost $2000. Just a couple minutes after that, they called me back to pre-op. Changed clothes, laid down, and another great nurse (yeah, it was a great “nurse day” overall) came in, asked me what I had eaten all day, and started all the pre-op stuff: IV, monitors, etc. Anesthesiologist came in and explained the process, and asked AGAIN what all I had eaten…I almost felt guilty my story hadn’t changed!
Surgery itself went well. I had told the nurse in advance that I tend to come out of anesthetics slowly, and I was the last person left in recovery. My heart rate had to come down to a certain point before they would let me go home, so we had a few minutes to joke around. My next-door neighbor Christine had come to pick me up so she and I talked about her recent trip to Europe. Man, I would love to go there!
That was Tuesday’s fun… Friday we had more. I was supposed to go into the doctor’s office so they could remove the stent, which is indeed about 12 inches of very skinny rubber tubing. Others had told me to make sure they gave me lots of drugs, but the procedure involved only some localized numbing. The procedure actually didn’t last long at all, but it really feels strange with a hose and camera going up inside you. I was VERY happy to be done with that one!

I managed a long walk yesterday, just to tell my body we weren't quite finished with the training. Everything went well, so I will be swimming and biking today, and back to my very slow plodding Tuesday. My run at IMAZ is going to be really slow, but it isn’t worth getting worked up about, either. Not like I was ever in a podium position, anyway…

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life's greatest happiness is to be convinced we are loved. - Victor Hugo

This past couple of weeks have been a bunch of ups and downs…
The most important event was Amanda’s and Matt’s wedding. She is a beautiful bride, and I am happy to call Matt my son-in-law. The wedding was well-planned, and everything was fantastic. I think the biggest thing for me was the smile on my daughter’s face.

They make an awesome-looking couple, don’t they? I am looking forward to getting the pics from Matt’s dad and the photographer Amanda and Matt hired.

We started the day with a 3 1/2 hour ride. Leaving the hotel in Frisco, we rode out to the north, then over through McKinney. We did pretty well for most of the ride, but the wind and heat kicked in when we were still about 30 minutes from finishing up. We ended up stopping at a convenience store for cold water and ice - I must admit, it felt pretty good dumping some of that ice down my tuxedo jersey.

The middle of July, I rode the Katy Flatland century for the 4th time. This is a fairly flat ride (actually, REALLY flat other than an overpass over Interstate-10 at Sealy!) The ride went really well, until mile 87. We stopped at the aid station, and sitting next to the bikes, we heard a loud noise. I thought the woman who had just gotten off her bike had banged her helmet against the railing we were leaning against, but as we were starting to roll out of the aid stop, I realized my rear wheel was binding up. Once I got off and looked, I realized the noise we had heard was actually a spoke on my race wheel popping. Fortunately, there was a mechanic from the bike shop sponsoring the ride. I walked the bike back to the mechanic to see if they thought I could finish the last 13-14 miles on the wheel. After the mechanics both said they thought I would ruin the rim, my thought was to ride back to the ride start and get the spare wheel out of my truck. Jarrod questioned whether the mechanics had a wheel I could rent – great thought! They did indeed have a wheel, and once I made sure I had time to finish the remaining miles and get back to them in the truck, the mechanic switched my cassette to the spare wheel, and we were off. We finished the ride without any further incident, and once we ate at the finish, I drove out and exchanged the loaner for my race wheel. I really appreciate the effort of the mechanics who support these many rides. This was the second time I needed a mechanic, and on both occasions I have been extremely happy with the service.
The training for Ironman Arizona continues. The city’s pool at Clay Madsen Recreation Center was closed for about a week and a half, so we all had to find other options. I did one swim at Lake Pflugerville, and it was a nasty swim… the water was like swimming in a bathtub, and there was a lot of grass and weeds you had to swim through – a really unpleasant swim. I tried the pool in Pflugerville, but the swim ended early when a little kid apparently had an accident after eating too closely to getting into the water. The lifeguards cleared the pool so they could shock the pool, and I didn’t want to sit around for another 30-45 minutes. I swam the other day at Barton Springs. The water there is clear, as it is in fact fed by underground springs. It is also a bit on the chilly side, so it is a great opportunity to get the wetsuit out. After all, the water at Tempe is going to be cold. I want to take the video camera and get some footage of the springs underwater.
This weekend I am supposed to ride with Jeff and Jarrod for our century #8 for 2012. It will either be really hot, or it will be humid… we actually have rain in the forecast. We’ll see…
Looks like a job change in the near future. Heck, I even got an email about a position in Alaska. Yeah, even at $100+ an hour, they still don’t have a lot of opportunities to train or ride. Think I will stay here in Texas. And in the heat. Thanks, anyway.
Do It Like It Means Something is now an official Fiscal Sponsor for the HEART: Flatline To Finish Line documentary! So - now we can accept tax-deductible donations toward the support of the film, and our non-profit will get a small percentage for handling this process. A win-win-win, for us, the documentary AND the donors!
Less than 100 days to IMAZ!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Number 8 In The Books!

Don't wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful. -- Mark Victor Hansen

This past Saturday we rode our 8th century of the year, the August version of the 121212 Challenge. We started at Jeff's and rode south... out to Kyle, then Lockhart and Lytton Springs, and back in to Creedmoor. I have to tell you - the smell of the BBQ at Creedmoor was wafting through the air as we pulled up to the convenience store...very tempting.

It was about the time we came out of Creedmoor that we got the winds cranking up into our face. And they stayed with us pretty much the rest of the ride. There was a rain front coming down from north Texas, and we fully expected to get wet, but never did. Just more heat, and more wind.

We stopped in San Marcos and sat in the air-conditioned air for a bit,  then it was back in the saddle and the return trip to Austin. While we were sitting in San Marcos, the wind changed direction on us, so we were riding into it on the way home, too! Lucky us...

The back road from San Marcos to Kyle and another regular stop for more air-conditioned rest. We were at about mile 90 on the ride, and decided we could get our 100 in by the time we got to Curtis' home. Between the heat, wind and 4 flats amongst us, we were toast by the time we rolled into his driveway. But, 102 miles and we were done with #8!

Curtis' son drove us and our bikes to Jeff's house, and then we were blessed with a really nice cool shower and a feast spread from Lianne which was awesome. Great replenishment for the beat-up foursome!

I am really ready for this 100-plus degree weather to be over!

Less than 100 days to IMAZ! Oh boy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

USA Triathlon Becoming Elitist?

Before I get on my soapbox, let me preface this with some points of clarification:
1. I am NOT attempting to become a coach;
2. I enjoy triathlon as a sport, and support the efforts to bring more people into the sport;
3. This is NOT a slam against the coaches. To date, most of the coaches and athletes I have had the privilege to meet are very helpful, generous with their support of us normal working-class age groupers.

Given that position - I recently found out that USA Triathlon is now going to "screen" the people wanting to sign up for a Level 1 Coaching Certification class. Note this clinic is the first step for anybody wanting to be recognized for their expertise and willingness to help others. The way it is structured, according to their USA Triathlon's FAQ page for becoming a coach, is to now give preference to those already-certified coaches who are seeking renewal. I find this totally unacceptable, in that this is discriminatory against those folks wanting to enter the coaching ranks for the first time, those who feel that the certification would give them added credibility. But that opportunity will essentially not be available to any "newcomers".

USAT's criteria for entry into the clinic:

"Priority for acceptance into the Level I clinic is given in the following order:
1. Full-time Triathlon Coach (self-employed or employer)
2. Full-time Swim, Bike and/or Run Coach
3. Advanced Degree in Sport Science (or related field)
4. Full-time Employment in Fitness/Wellness Industry
5. Part-time Triathlon Coach
6. Part-time Swim, Bike and/or Run Coach
7. Part-time Employment in Fitness/Wellness Industry
8. Certification with Relevance to Triathlon (ACSM, USAC, ASCA, USATF, NSCA or NASM)"
These clinics are limited to 40 seats, so what is the likelihood somebody new to coaching will ever be able to get into this clinic? Virtually nil.
I sent an email to USA Triathlon, asking about this and voicing my concerns. In fact, I sent two emails... does anybody see any answers to my questions? The thread is below (I am not including the name of the person responding, because it is not my intent to attack anybody personally, nor will I allow anybody else to do so):
First email from me:
I am extremely disappointed in USA Triathlon's decisions regarding the application process being implemented. Your focus on existing coaches excludes anybody wanting to enter the coaching arena. Your process is biased, discriminatory and extremely preferential. What was supposed to be the everyman's sport is now becoming elitist in its coaching ranks, apparently.

If the problem is that you have such a large demand for re-certification, perhaps you should consider separate renewal clinics rather than penalizing those wanting to become coaches.

It is unfortunate that between WTC's exorbitant fees and now your limited focus on certification opportunities, many will hesitate or completely refrain from enjoying the world of triathlon, either as participant or coach. 

You have made a terrible choice.

The first response:

It is just something we are trying. It is not necessarily something we are going to keep going forward, but we have to try it to see how it works. The clinics do not exclude people with little experience, but we are trying to make sure people who attend the clinics are interested in coaching and not just helping themselves. 
My second email:

Respectfully, I disagree...
What is the reason behind it? What is it you are hoping to accomplish?

How can you say "The clinics do not exclude people with little experience" when in fact that is exactly what you are doing with your selection criteria?

"we are trying to make sure people who attend the clinics are interested in coaching and not just helping themselves. " Don't you believe people who are willing to pay the rather sizable registration fee are interested in furthering the sport? How are the interests of already-certified coaches any different? Aren't THEY helping themselves as well?

Just for the record, I am not interested in coaching. As the chairman of a non-profit supporting athletes and working to get more children active, I have a number of experienced triathlete friends wanting to move into coaching. Your policies are designed to prevent that growth, either because of preferential treatment or your inability to deliver your product - the opportunity and support for those people wanting to raise their involvement in the sport.
The second response:
We are trying to get away from it being a race to see who types the fastest and is based more on the background of the person. It is a coaching certification, so the focus is on people who want to coach. We developed our online program for people who are looking for information and not necessarily to coach.
There really are not any answers to my questions; no honest, legitimate justification; no alternatives offered. It seems that just as WTC raises their already-costly fees, which will certainly exclude many everyday athletes, USAT will do the same in their coaching ranks.
I don't know how to better word my questions so that I actually get a response.

It isn't as if these legitimate new-want-to-be coaches are asking to be considered as part of the Elite Mentorship program... they just want, and I believe deserve, an equal opportunity to get their foot in the door.

I don't know if there is an alternative to USAT certification, as REV3 is a viable and growing alternative to costly WTC.

I am certainly open to any feedback. As I said in my opening statements, this is not intended to be a vote against the certified coaches we already have, so don't take it that way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Good News! It is “Game On, IMAZ!”

"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many races one after another." -Walter Elliot
(Walter Elliot never did an Ironman! - me)

On July 2nd, I got the anxiously-awaited call back from my cardiologist’s office: “Mr. Hight, Dr. V says to tell you that everything about your stress test looked ‘normal’ and that he would see you in a year.” That’s it – no changes in my medications, my activity level was good, and I had apparently gone further in the test this time than I managed last year… I guess so! As much as I already don’t like running, getting the treadmill up to the 20-degree incline was freaking ugly! Still, very good news and a big relief for me.
This past Saturday, I went up to Dallas to check out the hotels for the wedding weekend, and drive the bike course I had laid out for the morning of the wedding (no, a little wedding in the mix is NOT going to interfere with Ironman Arizona training! – don’t tell Amanda I said that). Last week I figured I may as well see if there is a triathlon or bike ride in the area, and do that Saturday morning. I did find a sprint tri at Joe Pool Lake put on by the same folks that put on the Waco Tri last year (this should give you a hint of how my day went…just saying). So I got a hotel room for Friday night and headed up after work.
On the way up, I had a phone conversation with Dave and Ellen about DILIMS being a fiscal sponsor of the HEART: Flatline To Finish Line documentary. With the film framed as an educational, inspirational effort to get more people off the couch, the storyline fits well with the mission of our non-profit. I have some reading to do about fiscal sponsorship, so we don’t complicate things with the IRS, but it sounds promising.
The race Saturday morning went okay, mostly.  It was overcast so it never really got too hot. The swim start meant getting into the water at the boat ramp and standing waist-deep until the gun goes off, and then waiting for the people in front to quit walking and actually start swimming. I think this race director has it in for me, because he again put my age group in the last wave. I had one guy come from my left side across in front of me, and he kicked my goggles off as he went by. Fortunately, I was able to retrieve them and didn’t lose a contact! So I was one of the last out of the water. But once on the bike, I passed a number of folks. It was a 2-loop course across the dam and back, but what was weird in the ride was that about midway across the dam on the second loop, I was literally pelted by a cloud of gnats. I had to keep spitting so I wouldn’t get a mouthful of bugs. A number of people were having flats on the ride, so I felt really blessed to roll into T2 without any issues.
The run actually was not too bad. I didn’t give back on the run to everybody I had passed on the bike, so I felt good about that. I walked a couple of short bits because it felt like the tightness in the right thigh was creeping back in, and I wasn’t about to risk injury. All things considered, it wasn’t too bad an experience… not a bad way to get in the training on a Saturday morning. Plus – I had enough time to get back to the hotel and shower before I had to check out!
Lunch with Amanda and Matt, check out the two hotels, and then off to drive the planned bike course. That changed in a hurry when I realized how much construction was along the route; so I headed back to the east and managed to find much better road conditions. Looks like the course will be re-designed.
Interesting drive home…the Austin area has been really dry the last month or so. But as I finished up on the possible new bike route, it started raining on me. The rain continued all the way to Temple. Just south of there, I stopped to get gas and a drink. It wasn’t long before the rain caught up with me, and followed me all the way home.
Saturday will be the 4-year anniversary of my triple bypass surgery. I thought about doing another triathlon to celebrate, but will more likely just do the planned bike and brick workout, then have dinner with some friends…maybe I can drag some of them out for the ride first!
Train on, friends. We are 130 days away from Ironman Arizona.