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My Birthday: taking stock of one more year in Triathlon

Taking Stock after one more year of Triathlon – a long essay on what one more year in Triathlon was like for me, as well as thank yous to all those that pushed me to complete 2 Ironmans in 200 days.

Last night after my little swim/run regimen at the YMCA I got home to our loft and Chelle had made a Happy Birthday sign for me out of post it notes. Next to it was my birthday card and inside of it she mentioned some of the blessings and accomplishments that have been a part of our lives this past year. This morning on the way in to work I decided I should look back on the triathlon centered ones and see how they have stacked in this last year of training.

While one more year faith in God, an awesome shared life with Chelle, and getting into Kellogg stand at the top of my list, there are some other training accomplishments and failures to consider.

Some volume numbers to put it in perspective:

SWIM: 71 hrs / 190,000 yards.
BIKE: 226 hrs / 3,782 miles (lots on trainer)
RUN: 133 hrs / 884 miles

Total hours 430 / avg hrs per week over 52 weeks: 8.25*

I am fairly pleased with the 8.25 average over the 52 weeks, but know that there were quite a few weeks (specially fall ‘07 when I was spending every waking moment doing MBA applications) that fell short of that.

While these numbers might seem high to a person on the street, I’d say they are fairly pedestrian within the smaller circle of triathletes that take this seriously and do more than 3 races a year. Gordo’s mantra of consistency over time keeps ringing in my years and that is probably what I most will miss in these next two years that will see very limited training for me. There were certain big weeks during the past year that were only possible because of the previous three years that I had been building – but it took three years.
The 130 mile bike ride with Aaron in the rain rehearsing IM WI in Madison, or the 5,500 swim sets that finally became doable and did not crush me. My big day of 1hr swim, 5 hour bike, and 2 hour run (at 8min pace!) would have been completely unachievable for me and would have put my in a major hole – but alas I survived and made it to the next week.

What would I have changed about my training?
SWIM: this is still my biggest weakness, and while I can “get away with it” in the sprints, and to a lesser extent at Ironman, I should have addressed my technique more. Frankly I need to take personalized swim lessons again but this won’t happen before B school so it’s a non issue at this point. When I make it back to hunting for a Kona slot (well trying to hunt since 30s is hardest age groups) I will def have to find a swim coach.

BIKE: I don’t think I would have changed much. The M2 sets that Michael McCormack scheduled for me ahead of IMMoo taught me a lot about watts, intensity, and focused efforts. While I had a few big weeks, I think I could have mentally benefited from a few more big cycling weeks (maybe a 5-10 125 milers) so that IM distance did not feel so foreign. I respond well to over distance (with swimming it worked great) training for the mental side of things. Maybe I’m just whacky, but in races I can fairly easily visualize an old hard training set and realize that if I got through that I can get through whatever rough patch I am in. So much of my training was centered on steady-Ironman type miles that looking at this summer I will shift towards the shorter/harder stuff.

RUN: I can’t complain. I managed to get my itband under control and have gotten faster every year. The run sets ahead of IMAZ were very encouraging – maybe the only thing is that I should have tackled more hills ahead of IMMoo. And of course my goal of running fast into the fall last year fell apart as soon as I looked at b school essay questions and the amount of time I’d have to spend on them. I do think that running either one more half-marathon or three 10ks to just get my normal non-tri run speed down and give me more race experience would have been beneficial.

Two Duathlons (both Gear West = I still can’t figure out how to race those), two Half Ironmans, three sprints (with two #3s and one #2 in my 25-29 age group), three half marathons, and two Ironmans.

SWIM: I can safely say that I have yet to feel great about a swim split – though my 1:12 at IMMoo was right what I expected and was pleased with that. I managed to minimize the minutes vs my other age group competitors at the local races, though at Heart of the Lakes for example, my slow swim cost me 2nd place in my ag (all I needed was 30 secs faster). IMAZ was a disappointment, but since overall swim times were slow it was no surprise that it was the same for me.

BIKE: I am finally comfortable on my bike and feel like I can gauge my bike efforts. However, I have yet to bike to my expectations in sprints, so that is something that will be addressed this summer. I wish I would have gone through the Retul fitting process earlier, though I was one of the first clients that Gear West put through the process so for me it was as early as possible.

RUN: Arizona was a disappointment in that I did not run to what I had trained (everything on paper pointing to 3:30 possibility). However I really cannot complain. At each local race I ran down my fair share of people to get on the podium. At Lake Waconia I had to run down three guys past the turn around (so only 2 miles left) to get on the podium. At Heart of the Lakes I was right behind a guy for 4 miles, passed him, and then was like 15 seconds from catching number 2 guy in my age group. Most recently at the New Prague Half Marathon I PRed at 1:31, and even that was on hardly any running since IMAZ so I am confident I can get down towards 1:26.

Family/life balance?
Well this is a tough one. Ironman Wisconsin being the first meant that Chelle and I were just trying to figure it all out and she was super supportive. That being said, doing something related to triathlon 8 weeks in the short MN summer did prove tiresome. Additionally, the real killer was getting done with IMMoo at the beginning of September and then diving right in to finish apps. Kellogg was due mid-October, then we visited Stanford, and it was a lot to just dive into something very big (and important for our family) without a break. Well when January came around it was time to get on the IMAZ horse again and do all that training with higher expectations for my race. All in all, I would probably not recommend two Ironmans within 200 days with grad school application/interviewing in the middle. We don’t have kids, I live/work downtown so that helped (no time wasted commuting – oil above $132 today!), and of course my wife deserves as much credit for me getting any finishing medals.

Race fees cost me the most since IM is spendy (but worth it). My bike gear is pretty much where I needed it (I used my Hed3s at IMMoo, and then borrowed zipps for IMAZ) and I did not change much. I guess last May I got an aero helmet, but that was probably most expensive piece of equipment. I had a coach for 4 months last summer (M2), so that was around $400 total from what I remember. All in all not too bad considering flights to IMAZ were off of free miles and our condo was a gift from my parentsinlaw.

Goals for this next year (which will take me into the dreaded 30s):
-Get on podium at Lake Waconia and Heart of the Lakes.
-Run a non-tri 10k (I never have) and get down towards 37-8 minutes on it.
-Qualify for Boston at Twin Cities (I need a 3:15) – this one is the most loose commitment since September will be first month of school and I’ll be too busy to train much – though I am hoping that a very hard June, July, and August will carry me through.
-Don’t go over 185 pounds once in school! I really have NO desire or the most remote hope that I’ll have time to train much since I’m the type of “go all in” on something.

This last point leads me to what is the training conundrum I have spoken to Aaron about countless times. After 4 years of steadily improving and finally making some breakthroughs, I am going to pretty much take two years off. I hope to run here and there, but it will be totally unplanned and unstructured. Right when I feel like I am finally building a base to absorb 40 hard weeks of training a year, I am walking away. So if you are a coach or have thoughts – please email me!

All in all it has been a great year and after 4,700 miles of training I am healthy, never went to the hospital, my marriage is strong, and I can only thank God for all of it.

As far as those that helped me along in this, my 28th year on this earth and 4th year in Triathlon, with countless encouraging words, tips, online musings, challenges, gear, advice, and patience – in no particular order (and I know I’m missing some):

Michael McCormack at M2, Kevin O’Connor at Gear West, jlo/ben/justin/jake/bull/max, Papa Don and Kaye, xtri.com, Desoto, oil prices that make me want to run places and not drive, the downtown YMCA, Cervelo, Epic Camp blog entries/podcasts, Faris Al Sultan quotes, slowtwitch.com (ex-the team in training haters), all the pros that let me interview them (specially Greg Bennett, Michellie Jones, David Thompson, and Vanessa Fernandes), McDonald’s for XL Coke, fries, Double quarter pounder, and chocolate ice cream sundae after every single race, Trent at gear west for putting up with my tri geekness, Aaron for hundreds of hours of shared training – ironbuddies is right, the Mississippi River for trails and hills, insidetri.com, Velcro straps, nipple band aids, Baker cookies, wordpress for giving me tools to build iwilltri.com, chocolate milk, naps on the Olson living room carpet, orca, DKT and Hannah at Gear West, Gordo Byrn at coachgordo.com, my grandpa for teaching me to love sports and cheering me on from far away Guatemala, tivo for letting me tape every triathlon broadcast in the USA, Cathy and Terry Lee in Minneapolis (thanks for the plan), competitorradio.com, my parents and sister Liza for un-ending support and prayers, Asics, a Pearl Izumi jacket that saw -10 degree weather a bunch of times, the ITU live video coverage on triathlon.org, my Garmin 305 (sorry about freezing you in -5 runs), John Shelp and Kris at SCS Multisport, the Lifetime Fitness Tri folks for press pass hookups, Jamie at thingelstad.com without which my site would be broken all the time and I would have never found out about Twitter, Jot in AZ for encouraging words at run special needs every single lap, ironmantalk.com, 3 year old tri-endurance and gear west bike shorts, computrainer, plenty of water for two a day showers and an indoor swimming pool, my wonderful wife Chelle (at every race the last 2 miles are me thinking that if I push it harder I get to see Chelle sooner), and lastly each and every single volunteer whose name I will never know but handed me Gatorade, picked up thrown water bottles in 95 degree heat, arrived at 4am and left past midnight, packed my race goodie bag, put sun block on my nasty sweaty shoulders, and bandaged my bleeding feet – THANK YOU ALL.


*these numbers are straight from my complicated excel spreadsheet – and I know I missed some but overall give a good picture with races included.
**I am not sponsored at all, so companies listed above are just the ones I use and enjoy.

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May 21, 2008 at 12:15 pm
  • May 23, 2008 at 8:01 amJot

    Glad I could see you on all three laps.

    Good luck. I wish I was as fast as you are. :)


  • May 24, 2008 at 5:29 pmbellita

    so very proud of you. you always challenge me and teach me. keep up the priorities. figh the good fight.

  • June 16, 2008 at 2:53 pmMAMI

    we love you so much and you make us proud. Now go and study hard also and enjoy it. Thanks for having a thankful heart and we love your “Chelle” also so much,


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