Maybe it’s been 2 weeks of hills, I’m not really sure at this point as everything is running together. There have been both physical and mental hills that have brought me up and down, but it’s all part of becoming an Ironman right? You learn to juggle the demands of your work, social, and training lifestyles as volume pick up and move you to what you once thought those limits are. Slowly as you approach them you start to feel that you get that anxious feeling in your gut and you press on. You slowly move past your previous limits and the confidence builds as you start to explorer the space you didn’t know existed.
So last Saturday I swim buddied at the San Diego Triathlon Classic. I was supposed to race in this race but after careful thought with my Ironman training it just wasn’t a good fit. Especially since I had a 105 mile ride from Solana Beach up Mt. Palomar the following day. So putting the pride aside I went and rode with this great girl who is also training for IMAZ at a slow pace for a few hours (probably not the brightest thing cause of the 105 mile ride the next day). Either way we had fun and it was great time…… I guess you might call it an Irondate! Then later that night I got my run in… again this was not a good idea. The upside was I ate a TON of carbs!
My athlete Rhonda who just did her first ever triathlon back in May finally reached the podium Saturday as well. She took 3rd in the Athena division which she earned. The Tri Classic was her A race and she even surprised herself. You can follow her journey on her Facebook page “Living Instead of Existing”. She didn’t know it at the time but I decided to stay and watch her finish and cheer her on going across that finish line. I’m proud of her her finding this new found love of not just triathlon but being competitive. As I’ve been a mentor for her the goal for this season was for her to just have fun and enjoy the sport, clearly it is. Next season will be pushing a bit more (like I haven’t done enough of that) for some possible podium spots in the Athena Masters and also increasing 1 or 2 races to Olympic distances in her preparation for a 70.3 early 2016 with possible IMAZ 2016.
So now to Sunday’s fun…it really wasn’t much fun. It sucked and it sucked a lot. Started at 6Am 1 whole hour early and I knew there would be hills and a damn mountain so I used my road bike (I think I should have kept to my tri bike). My road bike is an aluminum frame which I refer to as a tank. I’ve had that thing for almost 5 years and never once had to change a tire or tube. I put thousands of miles on it and it truly is a tank. I knew I was going to be slow and I knew it was going to be a 9+ hour ride. Yes you see that big mountain in the middle of the elevation chart that was a 7-8% grade for 11+ miles? I had to ride up it and the gearing on my road bike in it’s easiest gear was a lovely 4 MPH avg going up it. I’m not going to lie I wanted to quit going up and just go downhill. My brain was telling me to quit and just turn around but my legs just kept peddling up even as I saw friends of mine going down. I stopped and let my HR go back down since the sun was beating down on me and climbing up hill keeps me in my Z4 and Z5 for long periods of time. On these stops I made the mistake of looking at my map on my phone and talk about the longest mile.. I thought to myself man I’m going 4 MPH this is going to take me 15 damn minutes to get to the top this is just dumb and why did I do this. It was about this time that my legs wouldn’t let me turn around that I finally caught up to my buddy Marcus and I thought to myself that if he can do this than so can I. Finally made it to the top with him and another guy named Steve. We caught the girls just before they went down it was a fun quick reunion (I hated all of them at this point because they beat me and weigh half of what I do.) It was at this time where mother nature decided to shower on us.. A LOT! Yeah that wall of rain was what I went through on the way down. My friend Carrie happened to snap this picture as she was going up and I was going down. At the end of the day we all got across the finish line we got our medals we endured mother nature’s 100+ heat and flash flooding. Congratulations to everyone we made it out alive and our legs truly do hate us now.
I heard someone say that after 6 hours of straight exercising something happens to you. They are right and it’s different for everyone and for me it was interesting that it was my legs that kept me going forward and not quitting when everything that I read and listed to told me it would be my body that was telling me to quick and it would be my mind telling me to stop. I felt that urge to want to keep going, that confidence that you can do this. You can finish it. People still call me crazy and say that this is not normal behavior. I would have said the same thing 3 years ago as well. But for me this is becoming the new normal and I like it. One of the best choices I made in my life was losing weight and getting outside of my comfort zone of inside the bar.
I’m a fairly good swimmer and I’m among some of the faster swimmers out there. I’ve been a swimmer since I can remember. Hot summers in Minnesota and spending time at the Community Pool in Minneapolis somewhere. I was a tall skinny guy but loved the water, I was a natural at it. I was a swimmer in high school but mostly a sprinter, and never really got into it past then in terms of competitively. Looking back I probably should have, but I was young and stupid. Then when I came across triathlon I didn’t anything about it, I thought I could freestyle. Noticed how I used the word “thought” instead of “know”. I read some books on swimming and looked at countless YouTube videos on how to improve my stroke and even started to learn this “High Elbow Catch” and I knew I had some issue’s the mechanics of it all but I was getting faster. But you can’t really see how your body is while in the water. So I always wondered, I know I’m fast but am I efficient and just cause I’m fast am I actually “good”.
Then one of the guys in my Oceanside training group who’s also the runner in my Triathlon Relay Team went to this place called SwimLabs in Encinitas, CA. He wrote a great e-mail about this place to the Tri Club we’re both in and he told me about everything including a DVD to take home that goes over some of the findings all for 100 bucks! Now I always thought this type of stuff was super expensive and only for the professionals so I never even thought of it. After hearing about this though I was interested and started to look into this. Then I heard at our club meeting that they are now a sponsor as well! I had no reason not to go now. Then just as I was about to call I saw that because I’m one of Julie Dunkle’s athletes I get special pricing as well which sealed the deal. I had no reason not to go and see where I can improve… Yes even at 38 I’m still learning, but how can you improve if you don’t find out what you’re doing wrong.
Earlier that day I swam 1.2 miles as part of a race simulation for Ironman Oceanside 70.3 but didn’t worry about it since 1.2 miles is easy as pie. Walked into SwimLabs and could see the pools along with Mason and Julie who was working with another athlete of hers. I got to admit I was nervous. I think being nervous is healthy it’s part of overcoming your fears and I don’t like hearing about things that I might be doing wrong. I know it’s needed but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it right? So anyways it’s my turn in this pool with a current generator so that I don’t need camera’s to follow me through the pool. Starting out it was a bit awkward cause I’m used to actually moving but it’s a treadmill for the water. Well right from the go we were recording and I could clearly see some errors in my stroke and we worked on drills to do so that I’m crossing my arms in front of my face as well as working on my early high elbow catch with my left arm. It seems that my left side of things really needs some work. The upside was that the right side of things was perfect and didn’t need any improvement.. I have the ability to do everything I just have to do it more in the pool to get that muscle memory down so that I can do it in races without having to think about it.
SwimLabs Analysis Video
This was awesome to go through and I will probably do it a year from now to see how I’ve improved. I can’t say enough good things about SwimLabs at this time. I got a DVD with the videos of my session along with drills that I need to do to correct my stroke and videos of pro’s doing it properly and notes taken during my session. I highly recommend going to SwimLabs if you are concerned about your swimming.
Those of us who have raced have all heard the announcer say if you need a swim buddy they can be found over by here or there or out in the water wearing a particular color swim cap. For most people the swim is the hardest part of the triathlon especially in open water. But for those of us who live in California we have the pleasure of surf entries along with swimming along the coast with some swell. For most first time people it’s a lot to handle mentally and they aren’t sure they can even do it. What goes through your mind when you move from swimming countless laps in a swimming pool to having to swim 200-250 meters off shore through the surf? That’s where Swim Buddies come in. They are the one’s who are there if you need it and to help keep you focused at the task at hand and so that you don’t feel as alone out there.
I took the chance to volunteer at as a Swim Buddy at the Carlsbad Triathlon this past July 14th. I was a little nervous at first I didn’t really have a lot of surf entries under my belt as a triathlete. Now I had tons of surf entries as a kid and as an avid body boarder and I was curious if they would be the same. Well I signed up and decided that it was giving back to the tri community and I’d learn from it. I had volunteered for the Tri Club of San Diego at the SDIT Expo and got a lot out of it and really felt good about it and I got to meet some great people. Being a Swim Buddy was nothing short of the same and super rewarding.
I started the day really excited, it was almost as if I was racing that day I felt really good about the weather and conditions. Once I got there and signed the typical waiver paperwork those of us from Tri Club that volunteered made our way down to the beach and kind of went over everything. I was really shocked at how many people had come out, took all the nervousness of being a first timer right away. I was asked to be a floater in the surf (Yeah the guy getting beat on by the waves) and just be there to encourage people trying to get out and they could do it. There were a few people that I swam out with to the turn buoy and they thanked me as they made the turn. It was a really rewarding day even if that was all the help I could give, but I wasn’t done. As the other waves had started I noticed a swimmer without a cap and without goggles and she was struggling just to make it to the first turn buoy. I swam over to her and offered to swim with her along the way, and she said that would be great. As we swam I had to call life guards over to her so that she could rest on the boards we had some conversations. This was her first triathlon and she was extremely nervous about the swim and wasn’t sure if she could do it. Her older brother had talked her into it but she didn’t want to give up so we kept swimming and stopping at the lifeguard boards to rest. As we reached the last turn and swam up to the beach she was so excited to have finished it that even I got excited to watch her finish the swim and be a part of her first triathlon experience. As we finally reached shore she walked over to me and gave me a hug and said that she would not have been able to do it without me being right there helping her through. As I swam back out to help the last of the stragglers swim in the overwhelming gratitude from the swimmers towards us was just undeniable. That is what being a swim buddy is all about and now I am totally hooked! If I am not racing or tied to work, you can bet that I’ll be volunteering as a swim buddy when I can.