Thursday, August 21, 2008


That would be me.

Aquathon #4 was tonight. After sitting in the parking lot for 45 minutes (I go there straight from work) I head over to check in and get set up.

First order of business, change into race shorts. Problem, I apparently didn't pack appropriate shorts, no speedo, no tri-shorts, no bike shorts, zero, nodda, nothing. Only thing I have are the baggy shorts I put on over my swim/bike wear to run in.


Quick check to see what I'm wearing for underwear, double shit, boxers.

What to do, what to do? Problem is I really wanted to at least swim. It was windy, wavy, and rough. I like it rough, makes it more interesting.

So the baggy shorts went on and I attempted to roll the wetsuit on over the combination of loose fitting shorts without pulling an excess of material into my arse. Done, for the most part.

Jump in, get bounced around by the waves, wait for the race to start. Still not sure what I'm going to do once I finish the swim portion, the thought of a 30-minute run unsupported wasn't very appealing, even after getting out of a relatively cold lake.

Think, "I was in the pool" - George Costanza. At least I've got something to think about while I swim.

Swim absolutely flew by, when I first pulled into the parking lot the buoys were already out and I swore they weren't out all the way. Amazing how perception changes after doing the 1/2. I'm curious to see the IM course markers, they weren't out yet this afternoon. Incidentally, I'd like to do a leisurely lap or two of the IM swim course sometime prior to IM if anyone would like to join me.

Plan again was to try and stay with a pack and draft. No such luck, I soon ended up alone, but remarkably, I stayed on the buoy line pretty much the whole way. On the final leg one swimmer was adjacent to me so I fell back and attempted to draft her. It's hard. I'd lose her every 4 breaths or so, stick my head up and go catch her. Never was able to just stay on her feet for any distance.

Swam in, walked to transition, pulled off the wetsuit, walked over to the finish line, and turned in my chip. Based on a quick glance at the race clock, my swim time was about 19 minutes. I'll take it, maybe next time I'll just do the run.

The Pig in Pictures

Links to the complete race report: prerace, swim, bike, run.

Wilson decked out and ready to roll prior to my walk down to the start. The water bottle cage behind the seat is the one that decided to break just into the ride.

Prerace, coming up to meet the family prior to heading out. Seriously, does anyone look good in one of these things.

Go time, this picture shows the angle of the sun with respect to the direction we were headed, makes me realize I should have been able to see without issue.

Running up to transition, one of the few times I would actually run. I did walk once I got there.

T1, notice how empty the racks are, advantage of being a crappy swimmer.

Coming back in on the bike, apparently I couldn't even keep up with the camera.

On the way out, not really sure what I'm doing, besides ignoring my daughter.

Coming back in with Mel in tow. Done, finally.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Walking Pig

Pig's don't run, do they? I don't know. I guess they probably do if they have to.

T2 was an uneventful 2:53, sat down to put on running shorts and shoes. It still doesn't feel right to run in my underwear, which is what I feel like if I run in just bike shorts. So I added shorts and took off my compression top for my loose sleeveless running shirt.

The run out of transition was painful to say the least. I made it up to the corner where I walked to say hi to the family, then ran off again, partly because I just couldn't bear to walk in front of the kids. Seems somewhat foolish now, but that's how I felt at the time. This lasted maybe a 1/4 mile before the pain in my back was too much to take. Relatively speaking, my legs actually felt pretty good.

So I walked and kept trying to stretch or rub out the pain in my back. I had tylenol with me, meant to take aspirin but grabbed the wrong bottle. At the first aid station (mile 1) I took the tylenol and continued walking, I knew at the 2-mile mark there was a long down hill section, plan was to walk to that point and then start running at the hill.

I'm not sure if I had already mentally checked out already or not, the more I think about it, the more I think I had. The two mile mark came and I started running again. I almost made it to the bottom of the hill before I quit and started walking again, my back was starting to loosen up, but it was still quite painful.

At this point I basically quit, I don't know how else to put it. I don't know that the thought of actually stopping ever seriously entered my mind, but I quit. I couldn't see the point of continuing to try and run. Push and suffer, or walk and try to enjoy a 13.1 mile buffet of aid stations.

So I walked, just after the third aid station I felt like I had a something in my right shoe. At the 4-mile mark I sat on the bumper of a volunteer's vehicle to inspect my foot and shoe. Nothing, not in the sock, not in the shoe, not on the foot. But as soon I put the shoe back on the pain was back. Apparently blister #1 was forming, it basically took over the entire side and bottom of my second toe, the pinkies neighbor.

There were many times where I contemplated running again. Then I'd ask myself why, and I never could come up with an answer. The course was an out an back. I could see everyone coming back in and it wasn't pretty, lots of slow painful shuffles. I should mention that by this point it was about 85 and sunny, no shade anywhere and not much in the way of wind. Tough conditions to run in. My back had loosened up and felt more or less normal, but I was in a pretty good mood and didn't really want to leave my happy place. So I just kept walking. Focused on reaching the turn around on the way out, then on the next mile marker on the way back.

The blister on my toe soon had a companion on the ball of my foot. One that ended up larger than a quarter. Blisters are another thing I haven't had to deal with, good stuff.

My only real goal at this point was to find someone to walk with, didn't happen at all on the way out, on the way back there was an older couple walking maybe a 1/2-mile in front of me. It was enough inspiration to keep me moving, but not enough to make me want to run. I did catch them and walked with them for a couple of miles. At either the 10 or 11 mile aid station they stopped and I didn't really want to so I left them and walked on.

3:12:42 after leaving T2 I crossed the finish line with daughter in tow. Seeing how happy the kids were to finally see me made it worth while. I think in the end it was or will be easier to explain why I was slow rather than try to explain why I quit. That could be the only reason I stayed out there, I don't know.

We went back down to the beach where I hobbled into the lake to cool off. My two blisters had a third friend on my heel almost the size of a quarter. All of them on my right foot, same foot I burned two days earlier in the pasta water incident. The water felt great, the walk back up to transition and back to the van, not so much.

Total time ended up at 7:23:18. Obviously not the race I was hoping for. I have a whole new appreciation for IM and the training and dedication that must go into preparing for it. Walking for 3+ hours gives you a lot of time to contemplate why you do things and what your motivations are. I didn't come to any conclusions out there on the course, but I did enjoy the walk, which is a small miracle in and of itself.

The Biking Pig

Made it through transition in 3:19, including a pretty good run up from the beach. No issues here, but I had to pee. There was one porta potty at the outlet, but there was one guy already waiting so I decided to hold it until the first aid station.

I can't bring myself to pee on the go, something inherently wrong with it from a back of the pack perspective. If you're looking to win, go ahead and piss yourself. When the difference might be between 364th and 370th place, have some dignity and find a pot to piss in, or a bush, anything. Enough said.

Goal on the bike was to find someone to pace off of and go easy. Didn't really happen, just out of the park I got behind one guy for about two miles before his pace dropped way off. After that I was generally moving faster than those around me, that happens when your a bad swimmer. I got passed by maybe a dozen guys within the first 5-miles and all I could think was wow, there are shittier swimmers than me.

At maybe the 6-mile mark we crossed some railroad tracks. There were a ton of bottles on the ground so I went to check mine. I grabbed the bottle and it was loose and came out just as I grabbed it, so I thought. Turns out the cage came off with the bottle, the bracket was still on the bike, it just broke clean off from the cage. I had an extra bottle holder in back on the other side so after staring at it quizzically for a moment I shook off the cage and stuffed the bottle in the spare. So much for cheap water bottle cages.

The first aid station came and went with no porta potty, maybe 17 miles in going through small town Iowa I came around a corner to find an aid station and a porta potty. Quick stop and I was a much happier boy. Little tough coming out and watching a bunch of people I just passed going by, but it was worth it.

The first 40-miles absolutely flew by. Seriously. I spun up and over the hills and coasted down them. There was nothing else, no flats, just up and down, but it seemed like it was all uphill. Nothing steep, nothing you couldn't spin up, I don't think I ever got out of the seat by necessity, they just never ended. It was definitely a challenging course, not hilly by IM Wisconsin standards, but it was anything but flat.

At about the 2-1/2 hour mark, maybe 43 miles in, something happened in my back which basically ended my "race". Up until this point I was feeling really good and having fun.

I don't know what it was, but it almost brought me to tears on several occasions on the way in. Basically felt like a major muscle strain or pull, left side from the bottom of the shoulder blade straight down to the small of the back. No idea where it came from or what caused it, I've never dealt with anything like it.

I sat up and tried to rub it out and stretch as best I could, didn't help at all. The last 13 or so miles were a real struggle. I couldn't sit in the aerobars for any length of time without big time pain. Sitting up wasn't much better. This part really was a mental game, I kept relating whatever distance I had left with known routes back home. Seemed to work and it took my mind off the more major issues.

Coming into T2 I took my shoes off just after the last corner, felt great to get some air to the feet and I had a long walk from the dismount line all the way through transition to my rack. Easier to do it in socks than bike shoes.

Final time was 3:15:22, 17.2 mph.

I didn't have any real issues with the bike course. The roads weren't ideal, no shoulders, the railroad crossings were brutal, and the bridge that was under construction was interesting to say the least. What I will say is that the race directors did an excellent job with what they had to work with. Everything was very clearly marked, railroad tracks, rumble strips, miles markers every 5-miles, and regular signs telling motorists there was a race in progress.

Volunteers did an excellent job as well. I did almost t-bone a minivan coming back through the last intersection in Palo, but it wasn't the cops fault, the bonehead in the van just chose to ignore him and turn left in front of me. Cop was livid, with the back pain I was experiencing it didn't really bother me. That's how bad I felt.

The Swimming Pig

This was to be a race with many problems I've never had to deal with before, started from the get go.

Swim start was a time trial start, one person in the water every 3 seconds. Still by waves, and I was in wave 8 of 9. Entire start went off really smooth, big fan of the format.

The first leg of the swim didn't head straight into the sun, but pretty damn close. If I remember correctly the sun was just off to the left. I breath on the left. Couldn't see at all, just followed the swimmers I could see and hoped I was heading in the right direction.

This really messed with my mindset, instead of focusing on the swim I was totally taken over by not being able to see. To top it off I started to feel nauseous as well. Not sure if it was actually physical, or just something in my head. Amazingly I made it to the first swim buoy without much issue.

After I turned the corner, with the sun behind me, it became pretty clear that my goggles had fogged up. I've never had this problem while open water swimming. Pools yes, lakes no.

I was very hesitant to stop and fix it but pretty quickly did. Much better, but now I found myself a good 30-40 yards out from the buoy line. Kept swimming towards the next buoy, but never really closed the gap to the group of swimmers. Mindset was still out of whack from everything up to this point, and I still felt like I might puke.

Pretty soon a huge yellow buoy was in the distance and I thought it was the turn back towards shore, still being way off line, I made a much stronger effort to get to it and turn home. Only when I got there did I realize everyone else was still going straight. We were maybe midway through the second leg. This was another huge blow to the mindset. Relaxing and focusing on swimming just wasn't possible.

The rest of the second leg was uneventful, and I finally made the turn back to the beach. I ran into the most contact on the last leg, nothing terrible. Then something amazing happened, I remembered how to swim. For the first time I was able to just relax and focus and swim and everything felt good.

Swam in until my hand hit the bottom. I never do this, usually try to stand up and soon as I think the water is shallow enough. So I stood up, and promptly fell over. Took a little bit to get my legs under me. Stripped the wetsuit to my waist and began the long run up to transition. I felt good and was ready to get on with it.

Swim time was 49:05, much slower than planned, but I was just happy to be out of the water. G said she heard a lot of people complaining about the swim being long, could have been, I don't know. She also said people were complaining about boat exhaust, I didn't notice any of that either.

My only complaint about the swim was the lack of kayaks in the water. From the shore before the start I think I only saw one. While swimming I noticed none, and only one boat. You would think with 500+ swimmers stretched out over a mile (and the real possibility of a non wetsuit swim), a dozen or so support kayaks might not be too much to ask. Maybe I just didn't see them, I'm not always that observant.

The Pig (pre-race)

I don't even know where to start. This could end up being a long rambling post with no flow what so ever, but more than likely it will end up being a series of shorter ramblings, interrupted by a series of naps throughout the day.

I don't feel bad, just tired.

We pulled into the state park friday afternoon and set-up camp. Nice park, little odd there is no check-in or office, just drive to your site and set-up. Good thing I searched high and low for our reservation confirmation so I knew which site was ours.

Dinner friday night turned interesting when I decided to dump boiling hot pasta water on my right foot while wearing sandals. Son a bitch that hurt, and it hurt for a long time. Kept ice on it for the rest of the night, saturday morning it still hurt to put anything on it.

Ended up popping a kidney bean size blister in the middle of a pretty good size red area on the inside top of my foot. There was a good period of time where I seriously questioned being able to start the race.

Later saturday morning I went for a short ride, just out of the park down the hill and back, about six miles, just enough to loosen up, make sure everything was working right. Foot seemed ok.

Headed into town after lunch for packet pick-up. Went about as smoothly as possible. Picked up some waterproof band-aids for the foot. Jumped in the lake for a family swim in the afternoon. Water seemed cold (79 was the report from packet pick-up), but we had fun.

Dinner saturday night wasn't nearly as eventful, went to bed about 10, didn't sleep well. Up at 5, ate a bagel, pumped up the bike tires and walked down to transition in the predawn light, beautiful morning.

Set-up was uneventful, found out rather quickly water temperature was 77, yeah, wetsuit legal swim. Eventually put the wetsuit on and headed to the water.

Sat in the water for a while just relaxing and finally spotted the family on the beach. Big relief, for whatever reason I really wanted to see and talk to them before the race.

More later, time for a nap. I tired.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Leaving Iowa

Finished, wasn't pretty.  Blisters made for a really long walk.  Complete write-up coming. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Protest and Frustration

G and I did a sprint triathlon last weekend in New Glarus, Alphornman, small first year race, maybe a 100 participants.  G wanted to do another sprint, some friends were also going out, so I tagged along.  

My frustration and subsequent protest stems from my swim time, which I refuse to believe is correct.  11 minutes flat for a 450 yard pool swim (it also included a very short run to the edge of the pool area, maybe 5 seconds). That's 2:26 per 100 yards.  2:25 if you subtract the run.

Here are my swim paces for previous races this year.  I am not Michael Phelps, nobody will ever confuse us, in or out of the water.  With the exception of Capitol View, all of these swims are significantly longer than the 450 I did this weekend.

Aquathon #1 -   2:21/
Capitol View -  1:56/
Aquathon #2 -   1:45/
Bigfoot -       2:13/
Aquathon #3 -   1:48/

At Aquathon #1 I held onto a kayak at one point to catch my breath and swam the entire second leg on my back with my hands folded on my stomach (along with some of each of the other legs), yet still 5 seconds faster than last weekend?

Bigfoot was much the same, miserable swim, walked and/or stood still to catch my breath regularly on the second half of the swim, but 13 seconds faster per 100?

Aquathon #3 was reportedly long, and still 38 seconds per 100 faster?

I've emailed the race director, very nicely, asking that results and swim seedings be posted, so I can compare my swim time to those in my lane/wave.  No response, and nothing at all has been posted.  That's the frustrating part.

Other than that, good race, challenging bike, flat run, good support.  G won her age group and I think was the 3rd overall girl.  I finished maybe 11th in the boys.  And yes, she beat me, by about the difference between my posted and what should be my expected swim time.

I feel better now, hopefully I can focus on the pig.  Thinking about pig makes me hungry, mmmm bacon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Pigman is this weekend, the culmination of year #1 on my two year quest to become ironman. 6:17 is not really a goal, more of a prediction. Only real goal is to enjoy it and finish without completely self destructing. Haven't quite figured out how I'm going to do that yet. I don't feel at all prepared for the distance, except ironically, the swim.


I'm no longer concerned about the race being wetsuit legal, I'd have worn it anyway, but last week was pretty cool and this week is following suit, with temperatures getting into the 50's at night and barely breaking 80 during the day.

My only concern is my shoulder, it still feels like it is going to fall off after swimming any distance at all. I'm thinking I should do a Kerri Walsh type tape job on it:

I don't know how it could possibly help, but it seems to work for her and I'd have some fantastic tan lines by the end of the day.

Swim is a wave/time trial start. Still broken into waves, but one swimmer in the water every 3 seconds, should be interesting, but I'm going to miss the mass chaos of a group start.

I hope to be out of the water in 39-minutes, based on my last two Aquathons this is pushing it, but still doable.


I'm starting in the second to last swim wave, couple this with my incredible swim speed and I'll have just about every participant in front of me to chase down on the bike, and there's the problem, I'll try. I just know it.

Pacing is going to be critical. It's something I've struggled with on long rides. Ten miles in I'm sure I'll find myself pushing 20 mph up a long hill only to struggle at 14 mph on a flat section for the next 10-minutes. It's an issue I know I have, but haven't been able to get over. Plan is to go out easy and keep it easy, getting the head to actually communicate this plan with the legs may be another story.

Plan is to be off the bike in 3:23. Definitely doable, if I go much faster than this I'll definitely pay for it on the run


The real wildcard for this race. I have no idea what to expect, could be anything up to and including a death march. For simplicity, I'm guessing, and honestly hoping, I can pull off a 2:11, 10-minute miles.

I think this brings me to 6:13, throw in 4-minutes for transitions and we arrive at the magical 6:17 number quoted above.

The forecast looks good except for the rain. Highs in the 70's, beautiful. 40% chance of rain, not so beautiful. But I'll take it over 95 and sunny.

We leave friday morning, camping at the state park. The only part I'm not looking forward to is the drive home after the race. The thought of 3-4 hours in the van after 6+ hours on the course is not appealing at all.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

With mom and I diving head first into the triathlon world, our oldest decided he really wanted to compete in one as well. Saturday Oregon held it's 3rd annual kid's triathlon. 422 kids finished, lots of fun. For his age group it was a 50-yard swim, 1.0 mile bike, and a 0.4 mile run.

Body marked and chip timed just like the adults, how cool is that.

Half way through the swim. He has all his fathers grace and skill in the pool. After losing his goggles recently, he refused to wear his sisters pink ones. I don't blame him.

Coming back in on the bike, after an early morning pep talk and walk through, I convinced him he didn't need me to ride the course with him. He's still kind of shaky on the bike, can't hold a straight line to save his life. It was a big relief seeing him on the way in.

Almost to the finish, pretty sure I've never looked that strong, or happy, while running.

Hanging with his buddy sam after the race.
Good times.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Aquathon #3

Turned out to be a perfect night for Aquathon #3. Skipped dinner and was really hungry by the time I went to register. Grabbed a packet of orange hammer gel and some gatorade, it would have to do. First time for me and gel, strange stuff.

Swam out to the intermediate buoys as a warm up and then just sat around in the water waiting for the start.

My plan going in was to try and hold on to some feet and draft. Didn't work out that way. After the first 100-yards or so I was all by my lonesome. At some point I drifted maybe 20-yards off to the right, and even though I seemed to be swimming straight at the first buoy, I never got back in line with the pack.

Same thing happened on the way to the second buoy. It was odd, every time I sited (6-8 breathes), the buoy was right in front of me, yet I ended up off to the right. By the time I turned the second buoy I was convinced I was in last place.

I pushed pretty hard on the last leg, still convinced I was the last one out there, and surprisingly, found myself drifting right again. Overall time was 19:45, 70/84, and 32 seconds slower than the last Aquathon.

There is a pretty good hill on this course in the first half mile, by the time I got to the top of it I seriously felt like I was going to implode. At the first mile mark I found out why, 8:05. That's unheard of fast for me, no wonder I felt like I was headed towards total system shut down.

I spent the second mile trying to get everything back under control. Shortly before the turn around I settled in behind a group of girls going at a much more comfortable pace. That lasted for about 1/2-mile before they dropped off, I think just to let the stalker (me) go by.

The second mile was much more reasonable at 9:32. At this point I knew I could set a 5K PR if I just kept a semi-reasonable pace for the last mile. So I picked it up again, pushed up the hill, pretty much tumbled down the other side, then pushed with whatever I had left back to the finish. Mile 3 at 8:11, total time 26:23 (8:31/mile), a new 5K PR by 1:26.

Run time was 64/84, Finished at 47:23, 2:23 seconds faster than last time, and 71 out of 84.

Obviously I feel pretty good about the run, but I feel pretty good about the swim as well. According to one of the race organizers, the second buoy drifted way off course, making the swim longer than usual. He didn't say whether it was 50-yards or 200, but combine this with the scenic route I took and it adds up to a pretty fast swim, for me. To top it off I actually felt pretty good coming out of the water, I didn't really want to swim another lap, but I felt like I could have if I had to, like I will next week at Pigman.

Game On!!

After the cancellation of Aquathon #3 twice due to blue green algae, we received the following email from the race director:

"The aquathon scheduled for tonight is ON!
See everyone tonight @ 7:00 pm."

I'm not to concerned, it's early, it's warm, the sun is out. Plenty of time and perfect conditions for another algae bloom.

Actually I've been looking forward to these events. Anxious to see if all this open water training has paid off. Tonight I'm going to try and find some feet and stay on them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Mass balance calcs indicate that it would take approximately 12,202,995 cubic feet of ice to lower the water temperature of Pleasant Creek Lake from 79 to 77 degrees.  That's the entire 401 acre lake from top to bottom.  But, let's be realistic, we don't need to cool the entire lake down.

The swim area will occur in a roughly 50-acre area of the lake, if we concern ourselves with only this area, and only the upper 3-feet of this area, our required volume is down to just 304,314 cubic feet, again, approximately.

Logistics could be a problem.  But, if I could convince each of the 587 individuals registered to bring ice, we're only looking at 518 cubic feet each.  That's doable....

Monday, August 4, 2008

Open Water

In the six weeks since Bigfoot, I've managed to get in 13 swims, all in open water.  I forgot all about sets and drills and just swam, and swam, and swam, and swam. 

Lake Ripley has become by beach of choice, the water is clean(er), the swim area is huge (9-10 minute laps), and it's generally pretty quiet.  Lake Kegonsa scores much better in convenience, but the water isn't always so nice, and the swim area is much smaller (4-ish minute laps).  Swimming at Lake Ripley also gives me the added excuse to stop at Camrock Park to ride the trails.  I haven't broken anything there, yet.

Back to swimming....

On each of my outings I went in with the intent to swim non-stop, or if I did stop, to keep the feet off the bottom and recover like I might have to if say, I was in the middle of a deep(er) lake.  With very rare exception, I did pretty well.   The numbers:

10 hours, 27 minutes

An estimated 28,900 yards (16+ miles)

Most swims in the 40 minute range, several around an hour, and my longest yesterday morning at 75 minutes.  Which incidentally, has left me feeling like my right shoulder is about to fall off.

Enough swimming that I should be confident going into Pigman, and I am, as long as I can wear my wetsuit.  That's the downside, I haven't swam without my wetsuit in six weeks.  Not a big deal, until I get an email from the Pigman race director saying water temperatures are going to be near 78 degrees, and the call on wetsuits will be made on race day.

Frankly, it's almost left me sick to my stomach, my choices, should water temps be 78+.  Don't start, or wear it anyway.  It'll be a race day decision.  In the meantime, I'm hoping for cool weather and trying to figure out exactly how much ice I'd need to dump in the lake to bring the water temperature down a couple of degrees.  I'm an engineer, shouldn't be to difficult.

Friday, August 1, 2008


or just plain embarrassed, you decide.

Let's set the stage, I'm about 8-miles into my ride home from work, heading east on Cottage Grove Road going up the hill over the interstate.

When I get passed by a guy on a road bike, wearing a backpack, with a cast on one leg.

Let me repeat that for those of you in the cheap seats.

A dude on a road bike,

wearing a backpack,

with a cast on one leg,

passed me,

going up a hill.

Lest you think this is over, it is not, not by a long shot. I immediately catch back up to him and sit on his wheel. This lasts for about 12 seconds before he slowly pulls away from me.

This particular hill is fairly long but pretty gradual, so I keep him in my sights, he's not getting away. After a minute I pull it together and decide it's time to reel him in.

Ever so slowly I think he's coming back to me, I'm about to implode, but I just can't let him go. And then he turns, and the chase is over.

Normally I don't care all that much, I'm slow, I'm used to it, but this was too much.