Seven and a Half Hours of Torture – Ironman 70.3 Silverman

70 miles is a long distance. Most people are reluctant to drive that far unless there’s a very good reason, so it’s wild that there are people who willingly swim, bike, and run that far. It’s physically demanding, requiring tons of training and preparation, which is why most people start training for it months in advance. Hours a day spent swimming, biking, or running, with very few rest days in between, so your weekdays quickly start revolving around your workouts, foregoing dinner with friends for a brick ride and run. Pretty soon you find yourself more concerned with having clean workout clothes than having clothes to go out in! Not gonna lie, it’s a huge time suck.

But that’s just the distance, the low hanging fruit. Lost in all the training, the talk, the preparations, are the aspects of these races that really push them over the edge. The things that take them from just “races” to something else: the course, and the mental game.

The “course” is multi-faceted. There’s the actual terrain you have to traverse: the water, the hills, the corners, the road conditions, the chop. There’s the stuff that could be “sharing” the course with you: traffic, be it from other competitors or from vehicles on the road or in the water, wildlife, spectators, and so on. And then there’s old Mother Nature, with all her lovable un-predictableness. A week out the forecast could be perfect, then you show up on race day to sheets of sideways rain. You can prepare yourself for the terrain, study the course maps, and even pre-swim/ride/run parts of the course, but it’s difficult, if not impossible, to account for all the variables the course throws at you. A difficult course can turn a well prepared athlete inside out and wreck their mental state, and even on an “easy” course, with so much distance to cover, there’s no telling what will go wrong.

Then there’s what’s going on in your head. There’s a bunch of evidence that suggests we humans were built for long distance endurance activity, muscles and tendons in our legs act as springs, storing and releasing energy as we run, our lungs are situated in a way so we can breathe deeply regardless of how fast we’re moving, our brains pump out endorphins so we feel rewarded as we go, the list goes on… but there’s a limit. There’s a point where you switch from having an enjoyable workout to your brain freaking out, wondering what the hell is going on. When it starts telling you, no, SCREAMING at you to stop, and setting off every alarm bell it can. When it’s magnifying every ache, every pain, every labored breath a thousand times over and using it as fuel to talk you into quitting. Many people never start the race because panic sets in before they even get in the water, and many more never finish because of the toll it takes not only on your body, but on your mind. It’s brutal, and it’s a significant reason why these races are so difficult… and honestly, so addicting. When it’s over, and the panic centers of your brain realize everything is ok, the most miserable day of your life quickly becomes one of the most rewarding.

It really takes a special kind of crazy to want to do these races… so allow me to introduce myself. I’m Joel, and apparently I’m a nutjob.

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I Semper Tri’d…

It seems my race reports always show up just before my next race… but that’s just because I tend to write a LOT, and I re-read everything over and over and over and over again. But… here it is, enjoy!

A while back, a friend tossed up a post for a local triathlon: The Semper Tri, on Camp Pendleton… it was just a sprint, a short race compared to the Bass Lake Olympic distance race I recently competed, and the upcoming Silverman race we’re training for. I took a quick look at the course, 500 meter swim, 30K bike ride, and a 5K run, “short”, relatively speaking, and it looked like a nice mid-training race to just see where I was… especially when it came to my performance in the water. Nothing jumped out at me when I was reading about it, the race was quite affordable, and it seemed like a really cool spot for a race, right on the base. So I signed up!

Retrospective lesson number 1: Make sure you do your research.
Retrospective lesson number 2: I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, “nothing new on race day.”

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Bass Lake 2015 – A Story of Bass Kicking

It’s been a good minute since I’ve written anything on my personal site. While fundraising was going on, I decided to focus my efforts on updating my fundraising page, as well as fundraising in general, so this site had to take a back seat. Of course TriRock is in full swing, so while I sat down and typed this up, I never had a chance to edit it (and have Tam do the final edit, Thanks Tam!) and post it. Well, I’m doing that now… better late than never right? Oh, and yea, this will probably be long, but hopefully it’ll be entertaining. 🙂

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Never Ever Tri Anything New on Race Day. Ever. Everevereverever (Mission Bay Triathlon)

Clever use of the “Tri” not withstanding, the lead into this particular post is a very old adage that’s been passed on from coach to racer for millennia. The logic is this: on race day, you’re going to be pushing yourself to the max, dealing with other competitors, and you may have to deal with unforeseen obstacles (flat tire, crash, jellyfish, etc.), so the last thing you want to do is introduce something unfamiliar and only make things more complex. If you decide you’ll use a new pair of shoes, you run the risk of crazy blisters or injuries. If you get a new bike, you could find yourself miserable and slower because of it. If you add new nutrition elements (different type of gel, new sports drink), you could get a wicked case of the “trots” mid race, and brown shorts are no fun.

Or, if you decide to try mounting your bike using a different method than you’re used to, you could end up on the ground. [Keep Reading…]

Life Time Tri (not the channel), directions, and the aftermath

For our triathlon finale, we decided to compete in the Life Time Triathlon up in Oceanside, CA, sprint distance, of course. Aside from the sprint distance, they had an Intermediate/International/Olympic/longerthansprintbutnotaslongasironman distance that was highlighted by the finale of the Life Time series championships. After having done 2 triathlons in the span of a month, I was a bit on the fence, but decided to do it after seeing a number of our Team Challenge teammates were participating. Yeller originally planned to show up and cheer us on since she wanted to focus on her cycling and swimming skills, but after some “arm twisting,” she caved and signed up. And by arm twisting, I mean “I did nothing and she eventually decided to sign up on her own.” 🙂

After we finished with the football tournament the day before, we hustled home to take care of the dogs and then hit the road up to Oceanside to register and pick up our swag. Speaking of, the swag was pretty great. We got: an awesome backpack with a drawstring bag inside it, another drawstring backpack kinda thing, a lifetime visor, coupons, some snacks, deodorant, and, of course, a sweet tech-tee. They also gave us a couple bags so they could handle trucking our stuff to the finish after the start, which turned out to be pretty awesome (more on this later). After grabbing our things, we sat down to listen to the course rundown so we were clear on where we were going and so we wouldn’t get lost. While the meeting was getting started, we noticed two of our teammates walking by, so they stopped to say hi and listen to the course rundown as well. This is the part of the story where, if it were a TV show, there would be some ominous music or a sound effect or something to signify some level of importance.

After the rundown of the course, we strolled around the expo and, of course, ran into one of Yeller’s friends managing the Tri Club San Diego booth… who twisted our arms (and by twisted, I mean offered us beer glasses) and got us to sign up. It seemed like she was doing a bit of arm twisting because we noticed the name of a teammate on the signup sheet. Yes, we’re addicted.

One of the new things to us was the fact the transition areas were split in two. Instead of the swim to bike and bike to run transition being in one spot, the swim to bike (T1) was by the start and the bike to run (T2) was about a mile away near the finish. This is where the bags came in handy: before we started our swim, we could put stuff we hung onto (sweaters for example) into one of the bags and drop it in a box. After we got out of the water, we put all our stuff in another bag and they’d truck everything to the finish so we didn’t have to go all over to pick up our items. After the meeting, we dropped our running stuff at T2 and drove to T1 just so we could scout the area. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought our bikes, which meant the next morning we would need to ride them to T1 to rack them and get ready for the start. But after a quick walk around the area we were pretty comfortable with how everything would go down.

Pre-tri, aside from us being a little sore, it seemed like this was shaping up to be a pretty good event. Of course things aren’t always how they seem…

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This past weekend Yeller and I decided to volunteer for the Esprit de She, an all female triathlon benefiting ovarian cancer research. They had sprint (750m swim, 20K bike, 5K run) and super sprint (half that) distances as well as a duathlon (2K run, 20K bike, 5K run). We knew a bunch of people participating, but we had a wedding the night before, so getting up at 4:30 am to compete wasn’t in the cards for Yeller.

Instead we woke up at 4:30 am to volunteer.

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