Ironman Louisville-An Awesome Experience

Okay, let’s say this right now. It lived up to it’s billing from start to finish, and then some. Yes, Ironman Louisville was awesome, so challenging, fun, torture, humbling, inspiring, and a huge confidence builder. I admit in the days … Continue reading

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Ironman Louisville Almost Here

The days are now slowly counting down to the longest physical race of my life- Ironman Louisville. I really hesitate to call it a race. As others have told me before, it’s really one long day. I think I am ready, but who really knows about these things. So many challenges and problems can creep up and ruin your day. So instead of worrying about what might or might not happen…I need to concentrate on what I can control. I can’t control the weather turning hotter. I can control the salt tablets I take on the bike. I can stop at every aid station, and replenish my bottles of water and Ironman Perform. I can control my pacing on the bike, and the run. Slow and relaxed. Steady and moving forward. Save my legs for the run. That’s part of my race plan. As one coach said, Ironman is not so much about fitness, but about executing your plan.
Part of that plan is being prepared! For anything! Good lesson just 4 days out from Sunday’s  race. I was feeling anxious about my race wheels and knowing how to repair a flat. The last few years some idiots have vandalized the bike course outside Louisville with tacks, and punctured multiple tires. I took my bike in to Swim Bike Run of KY to see our bike whiz Ian Baker. In going thru a lesson on how to repair a flat he discovered both my tires were wearing out. After all, I have had them for at least 2-years. No wonder! We also learned the CO2 cartridge in my saddle bag was empty, already used. It would have been useless. So we replaced both tires, and I bought 2 new cartridges plus two new tubes to put in my saddle  bag.  I won’t be Mr. Speedy changing a flat, but at least now I have enough gear and fresh tires to make a difference. Lesson? Don’t assume your bike is ready for 112-miles. Have a bike pro check it out, and then practice for those moments when a  tube goes flat.
So much of Sunday will be mental. It’s hard to stay focused when so much around you is new and exciting. It will be difficult to let people pass me, and to stay patient. So different from any race I’ve competed in. That is also what is making this experience so gratifying and interesting. This may be the hardest part….waiting! Thursday I go to Louisville to check-in, and I get my race day hair cut :)  A picture will be taken!  I am thinking about a semi-buzz cut!
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The Taper Begins & the Excitement Builds

With less than two-weeks from Ironman Louisville, I am enjoying the start of my taper. My body really wore out after several weeks of double workouts each day. I knew I needed a break when I had zero energy for a Sunday swim of 3000 yards. Time to take a break, and begin tapering for August 25th.

I have a plan for the race. Is it a good plan? I really don’t know. I have picked the minds of friends who have raced Ironman, watched videos, and taken what I can from my workouts as I experiment with nutrition. This I know: preparing for the Ironman distances has opened up a whole new world of triathlon to me, and it’s fascinating. The mental aspect, the preps, and planning are huge. As one coach says, “it’s not about fitness, it’s about execution….execution of your race plan.” A few months ago that would have made no sense. Now I think I understand. Ironman is a long day. A long, long day. You have to respect that, or the marathon turns into a death march.
My goal is to finish Ironman standing up, and running most of the marathon. Notice I am not using time or speed as goals.
I can only imagine what the heart rate and emotions will be like on race morning. I don’t want it to overwhelm me. I want to enjoy the moment. A friend told me I should try to relax and enjoy it. I like that. I am not a professional athlete. I am an age-grouper who feels blessed to attempt a huge challenge of mind and boy. I get the chance, and I can’t ask for anymore than the opportunity to prove myself.
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112 miles on the bike minus 5

Three weeks from now I will be competing (surviving) my first Ironman in Louisville, and it made sense to give the bike course a practice ride before race day. Right? I know this sounds insane to some of you going this far on a tiny bike seat over country roads, steep hills, and descents.  But I love the challenge, the preparation, and the learning lessons. There are always things we learn from these sorts of adventures.

The practice rides are organized by our tri friend Bob Baney who puts together support for the riders along the course for a nominal fee of $10 per rider. Quite a deal. Along the 112-mile course there are a half dozen or so stops with drinks, snacks, water, and fruit plus rest room facilities. Keep in mind even my 70.3-mile races (half Ironman) involve a 3-hour ride on the bike. This is twice that distance, and it’s not flat. At least a hundred riders showed up on this Saturday morning to ride the course. I paired myself with tri friend Stephanie who has rode this course several times, and would be staying at a speed (16 mph) that I wanted to match.  Unlike my other sprint and Olympic distance triathlons where I ride almost as fast as I can, this has to be a slower pace. Remember, after the 112-mile bike ride you have to run a FULL MARATHON (26.2 MILES)! And before the bike you swim 2.4-miles. Get the picture.

We started out at an easy pace with a group, and the first 10-miles or so were a breeze, flat and slightly downhill. I had been warned that we faced two big hills around mile 30. First we had to go down them, and as most of the other riders took off like rockets down a windy, steep shaded road…I  came down slower. My accident two months ago has put caution in my mind, and my motto right now is I want to ride today to ride again tomorrow. I know it will cost me in my time and energy going back up the hills, but it’s where I’m at with this. I took the hill climbs in an easier gear, and slowly worked my way to the top of each. I did not feel winded. In fact by mile 56 I was feeling pretty good…the half way mark. I had slowed down my pace to leave more strength for later.

On the bike in Ironman nutrition is HUGE. You have to stay hydrated and keep some nutrients going inside. I was finishing two bottles of nutrition drink (Ironman Perform), and it tasted fine. I was also taking one salt tablet every 30-minutes. Each hour I took a chocolate GU, and had two frozen Snicker’s bars (that melted) to absorb as well. I drank and ate all of this while riding.

We skipped stopping at the first aid station or two, and I should have stopped at the one near the half way point. My tri friend stopped, but I felt “fine” and kept going. Mistake. I should have stopped to fill my water bottles, and take down some more nutrition.  I did not need it then, but I was gonna need it later. By mile 63 my bladder was full, and I was feeling uncomfortable. I had to stop. At the next aid station I pulled over. I quickly drank some cold water, but was too rushed and did not fill the two bottles completely. This would come back to haunt me.

My next lesson came in the rest room. I could not get my tri suit off. The zipper is in the back on a small cord, and it seemed to take forever to reach up, grab it, and pull down. Finally, I got the stupid thing off. And finally I got some relief at the urinal. Again I was rushed more than I should have been, and quickly took off on the bike. I believe this is where I made my next mistake. I should have not turned for home.  I made the wrong turn, and was cutting the 112-mile course short. I was also feeling high as a kite because suddenly I felt like I had two fresh legs. I was flying,  passing people, and feeling really good about my effort. When I got to the parking lot where we started I was at mile 80. Not 112-miles. I had 32 miles still to do, and I had used too much energy.

Determined to at least get in the total mileage I turned around and biked back the way I came. I figured I would go to mile 95 and then turn around for home. The problem was I had no water left, and I was becoming more parched by the minute. And I was on my last legs…literally! As I turned around to head back, I had nothing left. I was riding downhill, and could only put very little effort into the pedal. From mile 100 to 107 I was whipped!  I came into the parking lot a whipped pup. I gulped down  couple of cold waters like I had been in the Sahara Desert when I got to my car and the cooler.  Problem was…now I had to run a couple of miles for practice, and all that water was slushing around in my stomach. I managed a bit of a run with a small walk mixed in, but it was not a pretty sight.

I finished the ride in about 6-hours, minus 5-miles, for a total of 107-miles at an average speed of 17.5 mph. I had burned, according to my fancy Garmin watch, nearly 3,000 calories. Most importantly I learned some key things that I hope to solve by race day: know the bike course better, stop at more than one aid station and stay better hydrated, find a new tri suit that is easier to use in the restroom, pace myself better and slow down, and remember that even if I feel pretty fresh at mile 80… I still have 32 miles to ride, and then a marathon to run. Challenging? YES! Doable? YES! There’s a reason not everyone does this. Crazy? Yea we are just a little bit. Time to get some sleep because tomorrow brings more swimming, biking, and running :)

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Registered for Ironman Louisville Makes It Real

After months of talking about it, and thinking about it, I finally did it. I am now registered for my first Ironman.  August 25 I will be in Louisville to make a dream come true. I am at peace with it, and really believe this is the right time.

Six-weeks after a very rough  bike accident, I took my body out for a practice race to see how it would hold up. My training took a hit with the accident. A seperated shoulder meant no swimming for several weeks.  I lost some endurance, but was pleasantly surprised Sunday, July 21, that there was no pain or soreness after swimming the Ohio in the Buckhead Border Challenge (Olympic distance triathlon).  My 1.2 mile swim was slower, but the shoulder felt fine.  I finished the race strong, and that sealed the deal for Ironman Louisville.  I know it will be the most difficult physical event of my life.

Some people question are sanity for attempting a 2.4-mile swim, 112- bike ride, and then a full marathon, 26.2 mile. I understand. The distances are great and very intimidating. But what I have learned as I prepare is that great challenges or distances can be cut down to smaller, more managable sizes. Instead of a four- hour bike ride it becomes a series of four, one-hour rides. A marathon is 26, one-mile runs. I have also learned that as much as this is a physical test, it’s a mental battle too. And I don’t look at it as so much a race as an endurance test of myself with nutrition a big key. Unlike my sprint, Olympic, and even Half-Ironman races, this will be a long, long day of pacing myself,  and giving my body the nutrients it needs to endure.

I am lucky to have the time to prepare, Each day will bring a new workout. I am fortunate to have some awesome tools to use like my Cervelo P3 bike. And I am most grateful for the wonderful support system I have at home with my soulmate and wife, Noelle. She will be at the finish line, and it’s really all that matters.

Now it’s time to get to work!

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Sometimes we start to feel a little invincible, even on a bike, and then reality throws us to the asphalt. That’s pretty much what happened last Sunday afternoon on a downhill stretch of Chinoe Rd. that I have sped thru hundreds of times. This time…I didn’t make it.

   About six- weeks into some intense training for Eagleman 70.3 (Ironman) in Maryland I had what appeared to be a routine ride for the day. Just 90-minutes at 75% effort. Problem was I was going on little sleep after race directing The Kid’s Legacy Tri earlier that morning. I took a nap, but I was still out of sorts, and not feeling very awake. That didn’t stop me from going for the training ride.
   15-minutes or less into the ride, I was coming down Chinoe like I always do- very fast. Maybe 30-35 mph. I knew where the manhole cover was, I stayed at least five-feet off from parked cars in case a door opened,  I looked over my shoulder for cars behind, and I watched ahead for more traffic. That’s when I saw it. A SUV down a ways on my left side pulling out of Coltneck onto Chinoe, but doing it too slowly for my speed. I remember thinking…I’m going to be on him fast. Sure enough I found myself almost next to him, and my last thought was…I don’t want to,  or can’t pass this vehicle. The next thing I remember is that sickening feeling of skidding across the asphalt. I don’t remember hitting the brake hard. I don’t remember getting sent over the front aero bars. I don’t remember flying in the air, and landing on the right side of my face. But it all happened in an instant. An eyewitness behind the SUV says he saw me fly over the handle bars and land on my face.
    I do remember somehow standing up,  and dragging my bike over to the sidewalk, and collapsing next to a small tree. Blood was coming down into my eyes, and I was shaken to the core. Normally when cyclists go down in a fall, one of their first thoughts…is my bike okay? I had no thoughts of that. I was pretty sure I had done some major damage to my body, and that scared me. I had taken a huge hit to the left side of my face, and immediately wondered if I had broken bones there. My right shoulder was also battered. What may have saved me was the fact I always ride with my helmet on and securely fastened. Strangely, it had no cracks and few scratches.
   Quickly people who had witnessed the accident were next to me…keeping me from getting up and moving around, calming me, and calling my wife after I told them her cell number. I knew this was serious. Soon police and firefighters were helping me into an ambulance, and securing me to a board. I was in pain, but more than that, I was disappointed in myself for going so fast, and crashing.
    Later a driver behind the SUV would tell me he believes that driver never saw me. He says he was also surprised how slowly the SUV pulled out as I sped toward it. I asked the witness if the SUV stopped or slowed down after I crashed. No he said. It just kept going like nothing happened. Again he said, I don’t think he ever saw you.
    So now, with a black and purple eye, a deep cut above the eyebrow, a concussion, and a very deeply bruised shoulder (but no broken bones), I must evaluate what happened and why. I could have suffered much more serious injuries. The helmet was key to maybe saving my life. Wearing a helmet while cycling is a requirement for me. That’s not changing, it’s just been reinforced.
     Most accident experts will tell you that not one single thing leads to a crash. It’s usually a series of details. First let’s start with the fact I may not have been totally focused and ready mentally for this ride. I was tired, and ready to finish it before I started. Second, I was going too fast in a high traffic area. Third, I ASSUMED the driver of the SUV saw me speeding towards him. Finally, I probably could have started to slow down when I first saw the SUV pulling out, but I didn’t. Too aggressive on my part? Too confident? Perhaps, but at that speed waiting until the last second to make a decision to slow down cost me dearly.
     I believe drivers and cyclists can share the road safely. I believe Lexington is moving in that direction with bike lanes and more awareness of cyclists. As cyclists we have to do our part: wear our helmets, obey traffic laws, be alert at all times, and ride defensively. The last part is the hardest for me because it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of protection. And a bike is no match for a car…. or the body for asphalt. For this cyclist, riding in Lexington just became a little less casual.
   And that race I was training for…I had to pull out.
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Eagleman 70.3 Awaits on June 9th

I didn’t think I could do it.  Workouts every day without a “recovery” day. Not only that. Most of the training days included two workouts: a swim and a run, a bike and a run…you get the idea.  And oh yea- hills. Lots of hill training. Once a week sprints up the hill next to Shriners. Once a week climbing the hill from the ferry on my bike. Would my body hold up? Could I mentally accept the possibility I could do all this?

Three weeks later it turns out I can do all this without collapsing or causing injury to my body. More evidence we can do more than we think. Sometimes it just takes hitting that switch in our head from “can’t do” to “yes I can.” And oh yes, the legs have never felt stronger.  Will it translate into a faster race on June 9th at Eagleman in Maryland? Don’t know. But I think my confidence is rising, and that’s a good feeling.

Where is all this headed? Louisville Ironman in August is the goal. The 70.3 will be a good first test, then a training race at Border Challenge in July (an Olympic), maybe the Blue Grass 10,000 July 4th, and then the big one in Louisville. First time ever! The journey continues with all the soreness, exhaustion, demands on time, and challenge that makes it so special and memorable.

Eagleman 70.3 here we come!

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New Year Brings Adventure on the Road

One of the beauty’s of a New Year and triathlon/racing is dreaming about all the possibilities. It’s fun. For example, someone was in the SBR shop the other day, and said, “the swim is in a lake with crystal clear water, so clean you can see the bottom.” My ears immediately picked up on that delicious vision. My lake and river swims in the last year have been in not so clear water from the Ohio River to rivers and lakes in Austin, Texas, Augusta, Georgia, and Burlington, Vermont. Not nasty water, but certainly didn’t qualify as “crystal clear.”
So I inquired. Where is this race? North Carolina I was told. And the bike is pancake flat. Hmmmm. That sounded interesting plus it’s drivable from Kentucky. Will I go there to race. Maybe. But just the thought of doing some traveling to see parts of the country I normally wouldn’t visit is enticing.
Right now I am locked in and registered for a Half-Ironman in Maryland called Eagleman. I’ve heard good things from Lexington triathletes about this race. It’s June 9th. I will probably do my 3rd Border Challenge triathlon in the Olympic distance in July. Louisville is an easy drive, and we have friends there we enjoy seeing and staying with. Then there’s the big one- Ironman Louisville. Since I have gone public with my intentions, I’m pretty tied in to going, racing, and hopefully surviving the heat in August.
So maybe this North Carolina race with crystal clear water is one I’ll also check out. Or maybe there’s a half-marathon run somewhere new. Last May it was the Flying Pig ( I highly recommend). Wherever Noelle and I venture to go, we’ll make it fun, and an adventure. Safe travels everyone in 2013!
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Making the Ironman Decision

For the last couple of years my mind was closed to it.  An Ironman race just did not register as something I should attempt, or even want to do. Too long. Too much training. Just mentally not ready to accept it.

And then following my good showing in Augusta, Ga. at the 70.3 the thought of  doing a full Ironman race started to slowly sink in and circulate in my mind as a possibility.  I had a good year despite two accidents: a month out of training earlier in the year because a long sliver of wood found its way into my foot, and then a bike accident that kept me on the sidelines just weeks before the Half-Ironman in Augusta. Maybe some of that rest helped me relax for Augusta. Maybe the lower expectations helped me. Whatever the reason, I really had a good race, and finished in the top 5 of my age group.

Confidence from that race, and a half-marathon at Flying Pig in Cincy in May, started the process of thinking maybe it was time to attempt an Ironman.  I know it’s an entirely different race from a 70.3. I know I may have to accept the fact that just finishing is enough. And I know it’s a challenge I want to go after, and say, yes I did it.

So I’m aiming for Ironman Louisville in August 2013. Yes it’s considered one of the toughest because of the potential heat. But it’s in my backyard, and I’ve swam in the Ohio the last two summers at the Border Challenge Olympic Triathlon (1.2 mile swim). I’ll also have the opportunity to practice the bike course.

It’s an exciting adventure that will have me planning and training all Spring and Summer. I will continue asking other athletes questions about the hows and whats and whens when it comes to Ironman preparation. It’s going to be a very interesting journey!

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New Opportunities at SBR of KY

 Welcome to Nate Cornelius, an excellent cyclist, bike fitter, athlete, coach, and bike builder. In another words,  Nate is our new Bike Specialist at Swim Bike Run of KY. He’ll be filling the large shoes of Eric Atnip who is leaving  at the end of December for Colorado. We are sad to see Eric and Beth go, but know they are on an exciting journey  with Ironman. Change means opportunity, and in addition to bringing Nate on board we will be hiring two part-  time bike mechanics under his supervision. We are excited about these new additions to our team.

We are also adding an exciting new program called CycleYOU. Noelle is heading up this workout program that  will be in our rear TRX training room. CycleYOU is like dancing on a spinning bike with music that pushes you,  instructors who motivate you, and a workout room that inspires you-complete with a great sound system, dimmed lighting, a huge road picture, and 24 state of the art spin bikes. There is no other workout class like it in Lexington.  Classes start in December, and we think you are going to love it!

The Winter Race Series starts on December first in the cycling studio with CompuTrainer. Our staff picks out one course each month for everyone to compete on, and you ride it as many times as you want to get your best time. Each month thru February, overall 1-5 winners receives SBR of KY gift certificates and age groupers (39 and under, 40 and up) win Bourbon n’ Toulouse goodies. It’s fun, and motivates everyone to train harder.

You’ll notice fresh paint in the retail and training areas, the addition of lockers, and more bike storage with the removal of the Endless Pool. All changes to enhance your experience and the value of a membership.

Let us know what you think, and enjoy a Winter at SBR of KY!

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