How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

Maintaining your fitness and wellness habits can be challenging, especially when life gets
busy. However, developing simple and effective strategies will help you stay on track and
keep your health a priority. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to
staying fit and healthy, complete with tips and techniques that you can implement in your
daily routine.

read more
6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

read more

Albeit Augusta Part 2

I made it to the front of the dock where handlers had signs up with our ages and waves on them.  I found my wave with ease and merged in the rest of the 40-44 males whom had last names that started with the letters I – Q.  Now is when the nerves started to build up in my stomach and all the insecurities started to show their pretty little selves.  “Did I train enough?”  “Why didn’t I do more swim workouts?”  “Why can’t I use a pull buoy?”  “Should I really use a wet suit?” and the most famous insecurity that comes up before a race; “What makes you think you belong here with all these athletes?”  I never can shake that one.  (Read my “About” page to find out why.)

Before I knew it, we were starting to move toward the dock.  I pulled on my wet suit and with the help of another athlete got it zipped up and secured.  One thing about triathletes, we always help each other out and the real special ones may even give up some time on their race to help as well, but I digress.  We slowly moved to the dock where we jumped into the water.  The temp wasn’t bad at all and my wet suit was buoyant enough that my insecurities started to fold the minute I got into the water.  Maybe subconsciously I thought there was a chance I could die while I was in the water, I am not sure, but I felt a lot better.  I moved toward the starting buoys and noticed one thing.  The current was not nearly as strong as the previous year.  Last year I spent more energy trying not to cross the start line before the gun, because of the strength of the current.  This year, that was not the case.
The announcer was counting down and my heart rate started to rise.  3, 2, 1.. and the gun went off..bang!  I started my 1.2 mile survival journey that would be the swim portion of the Augusta Ironman 70.3.  I could swear I heard the announcer from the horse races in my head.  “AAANNNND There OFF!”, and we were. I kept two things in my head as the swim went on; my stroke count and how many reps of my stroke count did I do.  In other words, “1, 2, 3 bubble, breathe.   2, 2, 3, bubble, breathe”, all the way up to five when I would site the boat house right by the finish.  I was able to maintain it for about six hundred meters until my A.D.D. took over and my mind drifted.  Of course, I got a quick dose of reality when I looked up and right in front of me was a diver yelling at me “To the right!  To the right!”  It seems I may have drifted a little over to the left and was about to cross the line.  I don’t think it was a dis-qualifier or anything, but it did take me a little off course.  For a good amount of the time, I just kept my legs together and stuck my head down and as long as I used my roll to turn into my armpit I found that I was moving rather smoothly.  Slowly, but smoothly.  Right at the point I met the diver was when I realized that I was at the back of my wave, which was a lot better than last year when I ended up falling to the back the wave behind the wave behind me.  This year I was in the rear of my wave with the stragglers but at least the bulk of the wave immediately behind me was still back there.  Sure, the faster swimmers from that wave passed me and I expected that, but what I didn’t expect was to stay in front of that wave.  Score…2 points for my ego.  
When I sighted the finish line, I was ecstatic.  I surely was going to hit my goal of thirty minutes.  My only issue now was, that the finish line looked so close but it was like the opposite of a mirror on the driver side door of a car.  They should put a sign up…”Swim Finish is Farther than Appears”, because when I was about to turn for the finish, I realized that the finish buoys were actually another 30 meters ahead of me.  You mean, I have to continue swimming?  Son of a……uh…donkey?  (I didn’t really think that either.)  
Feeling pretty good after the swim
I finally was able to get to the ramp and out of the swim and started heading towards transition.  I glanced down at my watch as I pressed the button to move it from Swim Mode to transition 1 mode, I noticed that, gosh darnit (see the last set of parentheses), my time was the exact same as last year.  I couldn’t believe it.  Last year, I was all over the place.  I zig zagged, I swam breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke, but this year I consistantly swam freestyle the full 1.2 miles and I still was just as slow.  Seriously?  All that work and I still came in at 37:17.  One thing was different this year though.  I was actually running toward transition and they made it farther this year to get to the wet suit strippers.  My legs felt good, my breathing came back almost instantaneously and I was running, almost sprinting.  There was the difference.  While last year the current was stronger I still used a ton of energy to finish it, which only allowed me to walk to my bike in transition.  I remember even walking my bike to the mount line.  This year, ran to the strippers, dropped to my butt, a young chick grabbed my suit and yanked it off and handed it to me as I jumped up.  I ran to  my bike, slipped on my shoes while clipping my race belt, grabbed my helmet, clipped the chin strap and ran my bike to the mount line.  Four minutes and twenty-two seconds after I stepped out of the river I was mounted and rolling onto the bike course.  It took me less than half the time it took me last year and that was without the third-of -a-mile distance they added from the river to transition.  Sure, I think I could have taken even more time off, but I was ok with it.  
Starting out on the  bike
I rolled out with the sound of the spectators becoming more and more distant as I quickly got my cadence up to 90 RPM, which is what I strive to keep no matter what the terrain.  My coach, Amy Bennett Eck, had suggested I not take any fluids or food for about 15 minutes to allow my body to calm a little and luckily I remembered because I noticed I was hungry.  In February, I purchased the Garmin 910XT and it has been an absolute dream to train with.  I mainly use it for number of swim strokes per 100m, time and distance, bike cadence, time, speed, power, distance and heart rate, and run cadence, pace, distance and time.  In this auto multi-sport mode, there is the functionality to program the events you will be either racing or training and with one touch of button it will transition from one event to the other giving you a transition time in-between.  For example, when I came out of the swim, I pushed one button as I came across the timing mats and it started to capture the amount of time I spent in T1, as soon as I mounted the bike I pushed the same button and it automatically started capturing the data for the bike portion.  Obviously, it did the same when I completed the bike event and on to the run.  There is also a simultaneous alarm function that I programmed to go off every 15 minutes.  This is how I track my nutrition.  Every fifteen minutes, when I hear, or feel, the alarm I know I need to have taken in a quarter of a bottle of hydration.  Every three times that alarm goes off it is time to eat something.  For this race I chose Honey Stinger gel packets.  To me they taste like Jello brand pudding so they can also be a treat.  Since Amy suggested I hold off I knew I just had to wait for the first alarm to go off and I could start drinking for the speed bottle that is bracketed to the vertical frame tube beneath my seat, where a straw then is strung up the through my aerobars so I can sip on the bottle whenever I want.  I love it.
The first five miles of the course was relatively flat which allowed me to slow down my heart rate while picking up my cadence and moving my speed to around 21 mph.  The air was clean, the sky was overcast and the temperature was perfect.  Everything just kept feeling like it was coming together.  I had no physical issues, I was keeping to my game plan and even though I was getting passed, I was also passing athletes.  Around mile ten the hills started to come into play and I started to move through the initial pack of age groupers whom I was suspecting were the good swimmers and runners but not so good cyclists.  Sometimes you can tell experience from the way people ride.  Amy always has me keeping my cadence and not coming out of the saddle unless I really feel like I need to.  I keep my cadence where I need to and I just move the gears to keep it in that range whether going up hills, coming down, or riding flat.  Sometimes a hill is steep and long therefore I do come out of the saddle, but it takes a lot of energy to do that, and while I do notice a lot of experienced riders taking that strategy, I do not care to.  I also notice while I am expending the same amount of energy on hills as I do cycling on flat roads, I pass those whom are pedaling out of the saddle.  Personally, that is always my favorite.  It is a little fun passing people and saying hello while I am comfortable in the saddle and they are standing, mashing down on the pedals and panting. But, just a little.  It still doesn’t take away from those athletes that are trained to average 23-25 mph and fly right by like a jet plane.  That is when I come back to earth and realize I am still that un-athletic guy who took two years to get this far, while others were able harness their genes and progress much faster.
Mucking for the camera
Before I knew it mile 16 flew by and I was passing the very first aid station where the volunteers where hooting and hollering, handing out water bottles and Ironman Perform sports drink.  Last year I strayed from my nutrition plan and ended up having stomach issues on the run which slowed me way down.  This year I was determined to learn from my mistakes so every aid station I just passed up.  Everything I needed was either in my bento box, in my bottles or in my tri-top.  I refused to stray this year and later, that paid off.  
The hills were coming a little more fast and furious in the middle of the bike course.  I had programmed another alert from my watch that helped a little.  I had my Garmin give me 5 mile splits, so I could tell how I was doing.  I was hoping to average 20 mph minimally, so when the split alert sounded I should see 15 minutes or less.  I was shocked when the middle of my bike I was consistently getting 14:19, 14:40, 14:52.  Of course there were two laps of 5 miles when I was way over.  After mile 30 we ended up with these rolling hills that while were nothing huge I got caught in the wrong gear and had to come out of the saddle and of course was shocked to see that I was moving all of 8 mph.  Wow!  From 21 mph to 8 within just a few seconds.  Somehow I screwed up somewhere, probably due to my ADD, and wasn’t paying attention and got caught on a hill and now I had to mash down on the pedals like the novices just to make it.  Sir Isaac Newton gave me all the luck I needed when he proclaimed “What goes up?”…wait for it…wait for it…”Must come down.”  Even though I was behind time, I could make it up by continuing to pedal on the downhills and scream at 35, and even once for a short stint, 42 mph.  That helped quite a bit.  While the last ten miles were pretty flat I still was kind of shocked when I looked at my watch at mile 55, when the split time came up at 12:49.  That was the highlight of my event.  Five flat miles in 12 minutes, 49 seconds.  It was definitely a first for me.  
I mentioned earlier that Coach Amy had me practicing transitions prior to this race, well, it paid off at T2(bike-ro-run transition).  I slipped off the bike, surprising myself by continuing to run, slipped off my helmet, took off my cletes, changed my race belt to a the one that stored salt tabs and stinger gels, slid on my running shoes, grabbed my hat and ran out of transition in two minutes and forty-four seconds.  Well, below half of my T2 time last year.  What made it even more motivating and exciting was the race clock stated 4:05:32 as I ran out.  Remember, that my wave was at 8:00a, exactly 30 minutes after the start of the race, so this wasn’t my race time.  My race time was 30 minutes less; 3:35:32.  As I was running passed the aid station they had about a quarter of mile out of transition, it hit me.  I could possibly be 5:40 something.  I was hoping to come under 6 hours, but if I could run around a two-hour marathon I could really crush my time from last year.  A two-hour marathon should be easy for me.  I ran a 1:38 in a race last year, I should be able to conquer this goal.  So that’s what I set out to do.  
Unlike road races, long course triathlons usually have aid stations around every mile, which is nice.  When your body has been taking a beating for more than 3 hours, it might need a little extra hydration and nutrition.  My nutrition goal was to walk through every other aid station grabbing water and coke and then every 4 miles taking a gel packet.  
Starting the run

Before I knew it I was at mile 3 wondering where the miles went, especially when my watch had me doing under 9 minute miles.  Of course I expected that to change as my body became a little more tired and I started to walk through the aid stations.  The run in Augusta is two loops around the center of town around Broad street.  It was loaded with spectators and I enjoy it.  Sometimes there is even some great signs that people make.  I have seen some funny ones, like “Toe Nails are for sissies” and “Chuck Norris never did an Ironman”, but my favorite to this day is still “If triathlon was easy they would call it football.”  That one always cracks me up.  Not that it is true.  Take it from someone who has attempted both American football the other football we call soccer, they both have there different definitions of tough.  Triathlon is just the endurance tough because it doesn’t stop for numerous hours, where in the other kinds of football they usually only last 2-3 hours and they have these things called “timeouts”.  In triathlon we don’t have timeouts, the clock doesn’t stop because you have a foul or a penalty.  It just keeps going.

The first loop went around Augusta went very fast.  Before I knew it I was in back a couple of blocks to the west passing the split where a sign was posted to keep left for the first loop or turn right if it was your second loop.  I remembered last year really disliking that sign, but this year not so much.  
The last mile
 (took off my hat and
sunglasses for the picture…LOL)

The crowds seemed to have grown on my second loop and I kept my eye out for Jessica who was sporting her bright yellow tank top and green hair.  It was supposed to be yellow as well, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.  I never did see her the whole run, but nevertheless the crowd cheered everyone on.  A couple of little kids were on the side holding their hands out and cheering hoping we would run by and give them a high five.  There were families out just hoping to get a glimpse of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers or fathers.  As I was running, my photographer’s eye kept seeing Norman Rockwell, paintings.  This really was a very clean, forthright city with an old soul.  I couldn’t help but smile a lot of the time, at least until mile nine.  I couldn’t believe it, the plan was working just fine but at that point, cramp, side stretch…ouch.  I forced myself to run until the mile 10 aid station where I walked and grabbed water and a cup of coke while breathing as deep as I could.  When the pain subsided a little, I started to run only to be struck down again by the pain.  I grabbed a gel packet and a salt tab hoping they would help and they did, for a short while until I arrived at the mile eleven aid station and ate an orange.  At this point, I didn’t care. I had 2.1 miles left and I wasn’t stopping.  If I had to leave my intestines on the sidewalk and pick them up later that’s what I was going to to.  I picked up my pace, blocked out everything and headed for the finish line.  I didn’t even see the mile twelve marker, but I felt the vibration of my watch which told me now I had just a little over a mile to go.  I kept looking down at my watch, 12.1, 12.24, 12.35.  I felt like this was the longest mile of my life, but I was wrong.  I finally made it to the split.  Left for the first lap and right to the finish and I was going right.  Here is what turned out to be the longest stretch of the run.  I had no idea that a quarter mile could feel like an eternity and when I finally did see the finish, I felt like I was in the movie; “The Shining”, when the little kid is looking down the hall and it keeps getting longer and longer?  That exactly what it felt like.  I looked down at my watch and noticed what it said 19:54.  Crud!  I wasn’t going to make it.  I lifted my legs and increased my cadence just hoping I could get one little ounce of speed and I got it, but just a little too late.  

I crossed the line with the race clock stating 6:06:54, so doing the math my race time ended up being 5:36:54.  While I didn’t hit my goal of a 2 hour half-marathon I still crushed my previous year’s time by over forty-two minutes.  I was on cloud nine.  I couldn’t help smiling.  This really was one of the greatest races I ever competed in.  I take that back.  It was the greatest performance I ever had in a race, period.  Unfortunately, being the oldest in my group I was the first person to cross the finish line, except for Russ who passed me at mile 5, so there was no one to share it with. 
Best race of my life!  

After receiving my medal, taking a couple of pictures and having my timing chipped removed from my ankle I  headed over to the refreshment tent a can of coke from this pool of ice and ran in to Russ.  He told me that he finished around 4:28.  This kid is a machine and that just proved it.  We congratulated each other and I went over and got a massage, but not before disposing of the first coke and grabbing a second.  While waiting I finished that can and by the time I finished up with Caroline, the LMT who took care of me, I felt like a million dollars.  With exception of a twinge in my back, which for me is normal due to my injury, I really felt good.  No pain, no soreness and due to the adrenaline still pumping from having such an awesome performance I felt like a rockstar, and I never really felt that way before.

Epilogue
I changed and called Amy and gabbed about the race.  She was proud of me.  The last two races she had trained me for didn’t turn out so well, so with this performance I felt like I validated myself in her eyes and in my own.  After hanging up I saw a text from Kim telling me how awesome I did and there was a voice mail from my Dad telling me congratulations as well.  I almost cried.  I felt the tears well up, but there was just too many guys around so I wasn’t about to let that happen.
Beth and I

As it turned out we all had a good race.  Celeste PR’d, Chris finished under 6 hours, Bruce beat me by one second, and as it turned out Russ actually took first place in his age group and was on his way to Las Vegas, but the story of the weekend was Beth.  Beth had gone through a lot just to get to the race.  Besides this being her first 70.3, she never biked really prior to this year, she had an injury that kept her from running for over 3 months, so she was very freaked coming into this.  Wouldn’t you know it, after having a goal of just finishing under 6:30:00, her official time was 5:47:16.  We were all really proud of her.  You can read all about her experiences on her blog Discom-BOB-ulated Running.

The rest is pretty boring.  We grabbed our bikes, and said our congratulations to the other athletes we knew as we walked out of transition  We packed up the cars, rode back to the hotel, cleaned ourselves up and headed out to Red Robin.  I don’t know if it was the race, or all the gel packets, electrolyte drinks, or just all the calories we burned, but I had a lettuce wrapped burger that I swear was the best I ever had.  Maybe I just felt like I actually earned it. 
What I can say is this; this had to be one of the best experiences of my life.  I cannot only attribute it to my performance in the race.  Every piece of the puzzle fit.  I couldn’t have done it without the training, my friends, my coaching, the group that I coach, my family and all of the positive people I choose to surround myself with.  With one piece out of sync, it would not have been the experience it was.

Albeit Augusta Part I

There is on aspect of competing in triathlon that is consistent among all courses, distances and brands; racing is lonely.  Obviously, during the swim it is hard enough to breathe let alone talk.  USAT regulations state that you keep four bike lengths between competitors unless one is passing and even at that point it must be done in 20 seconds, so accept for a “hey”, “hello” or an “on your left” there is not much conversation going on there.  The run can be more interactive, but after a long swim and bike, most competitors are already hypoxic or have a certain aerobic pace that doesn’t allow for a lot conversation their either.  It does happen though where athletes find new connections or meet with old and finish the run together, but it is rare, at least from what I have seen.  The common denominator is the people whom you share the race experience with, or the support that accompanies you.  After some logistics issues otherwise cancelled some of my support and fellow athletes, I was still fortunate enough to be surrounded by a small group of A-Trainers that made the entire experience a memory that will not fade.

On Friday we met up at Celeste’s home which was centrally located and began the caravan up to Georgia.  We started with three suv’s and a car with seven athletes.  Most of knew each other from other races and workouts, so the dynamic of the group was anxious but friendly.  The ride down was full of group texting, slight a couple of rather “adventurous” maneuvers, the lost and found of some of the caravan, but all-in-all safe and successful.

Luckily, we arrived early enough to drive to the expo and check-in, providing us the option of sleeping a little longer in the morning without the inconvenience of long lines which are typical to this race.  I was mentioning to one of my cohorts, that the previous year we arrived at check-in at 6am, coffee in hand, so we were in a prime spot when the activities started at 7.  I enjoyed this experience much more as there were no lines and even the expo was fairly empty enough to allow us to shop for any possibly extras we may need or want for the race.  Of course after an eight hour drive, unpacking gear, checking-in and shopping we were all tired and hungry.  We decided to walk down Broad Street, the main downtown strip, and see some of the nightlife on our way to Mellow Mushroom.  The thought of pizza from Mellow Mushroom made Celeste and myself excited with anticipation, but unfortunately, when we arrived there was a long wait and the other places we discovered just did not have the selection the group needed.  Even splitting up, Celeste and I picking up the pizza, while Beth, Bruce, Chris and Jessica retrieved the cars from the hotel proved to allot too much time between eating and allowing sleep to overcome us.  On the way back to the hotel, we settled on the next best choice which was have another pizza joint deliver food while we headed back.  The conversation seemed to stay on the race, sleeping and television while we plowed through two pizzas and 20 wings, which were actually a lot hotter than I expected, before we all finally retired for the night.

Saturday, brought on another level of excitement, renewed energy and the freedom of knowing the only task we needed to accomplish was to stow our bikes in transition for the next day’s big event.  I set the alarm for 7 o’clock thinking that would be the latest I slept in a while, but nevertheless my eyes popped open at 6:30 wide awake and ready for the excitement of the day.   Amy, my coach, had planned for me to do 15 minutes of each event as a precursor to the following day, however, emails had been sent from Ironman, announcing no swimming in the river would be allowed prior to race day. Swimming the day before the race is usually used to double check the wet suit and understand the conditions of the body of water.  For me this was not a big deal, as I had already completed the race the year prior, but it could have been for the rest of the group of whom not only was this the first time competing in Ironman Augusta, it was also their very first 70.3 distance triathlon ever.  With all of set on that fact, a few of us headed out for a run, which was surprisingly hilly, but interesting and fun due tot he southern cultural differences and the rare sighting of a fox.  Afterwards, we grabbed our bikes and headed out the opposite way and ended up in a very nice neighborhood with a couple of steep climbs.  I was grateful for that in order to test my bike, which had been recently pulled apart, cleaned tuned and re-assembled, and my legs.  Everything seemed to be in working order which pleased me just fine.

After a shower, a hearty breakfast, compliments of the Comfort Inn, and a quick jaunt to the bike store, we all loaded up our bikes and headed back to transition and race headquarters to drop our bikes in transition and explore the expo one last time.  Transporting our bikes to transition was uneventful with the exception that as we walked our bikes to transition, we noticed athletes with wet suits coming up out of the water.  When we inquired about it, they had no idea that there was an email warning of the disqualification if swimming in river prior to the race.  As a matter of fact the athletes we did talk with all mentioned the overabundance of people that were actually swimming, of which was confirmed by our own eyes.  We were all a little disappointed about that, however we shook it off not allowing it to crush our “high” of pre-race emotions.

Something I said to Chris, as we were walking into the expo that afternoon, may explain my last statement.  I expressed to him that I enjoyed the events of race weekend almost as much as the race itself.  The positive energy of all the athletes there to compete, seems to quell and increase allowing everyone to share in it.  Every expo I have attended from 5k races, marathons and mud runs to half and full Ironman triathlons, they all have never disappointed with the positive aura and energy collected and passed by runners, athletes and support staff.  It is one of my favorite parts of the weekend and this expo was just as exciting.

After buying a sample pack of a new natural energy drink called Zip Fizz, which tastes like grape and orange soda by  the way, I was walking back to the main hall when I saw someone I have been wanting to meet for a long time.  He was not only someone I had read about in countless articles but he was a friend of Lisa Jamison, my extraordinary massage therapist and friend.  This gentlemen did something that would be a first and would motivate a whole new generation of people to overcome the obstacles in their life and challenge themselves to live up to their own dreams.  Scott Rigsby, was the first double amputee to complete the Ironman World Championships in Kona, and I believe the first to finish a full Ironman period.  I was elated to meet Scott and I was shocked to watch him stand up and sit down as he was signing posters and books.  He moved up and down smoother than a lot of people I know whom have natural legs.  After a few words of conversation, a picture and him signing his book for me, I realized why he was so successful.  They guy just oozes positive mental attitude and strength.  Somehow, I believe that whether or not he lost his legs he would have still found a way to be a role model for people.  I wish I would have had the chance to read his book prior to the expo and would have been able to talk with him more about it.

Incredibly, I walked into the main hall and right there was another guy I admired.  John Pyle.  A vet whom had ran across America, flag in hand, for wounded veterans everywhere.  I had talked with John before where I coach at Fit2Run, and even then I noted his air of strength.  John is a little more grounded then Scott, not to mention a little older.  He reminds me of that guy in the motorcycle movies whom hangs out in the biker bars but is not part of the gang.  The character whom always ends up getting hit over the head with something on accident and then ends up taking out the whole gang.  Very cool, positive, respectful and passionate about his cause, but to be on his bad side seems like somewhere I would not want to be.

I completed my purchases and I headed to the hotel restaurant because I was starving.  I didn’t want anything to heavy because of our dinner plans that night, but I needed a snack and Bonk Breakers, Honey Stinger Waffles or any other race supplement was not going to do it for me.  As I sat at the bar, the beer taps floated past my field of vision and my mouth started to water.  Really?  I wanted a beer?  Now?  “Well, you only live once”, I thought to myself.  Thinking about my friend Dom (whom conquered the Chicago Marathon while stopping in the middle for a beer), I ordered a Guiness, and the Salmon with vegetables and it was awesome.  It was even plated beautifully.  While I was eating a very interesting couple sat down next to me.  The wife was an Xterra triathlete and trail runner hopefully bound for the World Championships and he was doing his first 70.3 the next day.  The dynamic had them supporting each other for races, but never doing the same race.  After the pleasantries and initial info gathering the conversation turned to running where I was impressed to hear after a long career of running she had started focusing on a new form to help her run more efficiently.  Was this a sign?  Running form is what I teach, coach and mentor athletes on and love doing so, and this athlete just so happens to let me know she has been looking at changing her form.  Kismet!  Of course as always I mentioned the group I coach at Fit2Run, my back story of how I became a form advocate, my results and then proceeded to ask her about her experiences changing her form and what she was looking to do.  We right on the same wavelength and she even asked my my opinion on a couple of things.  Needless to say, it was an outstanding feeling.

We called ahead to Carraba’s because of course most of the triathlete world wants pasta to carb load the night before.  Being on a 90% paleo diet I now forgo the pasta rituals and more prefer meat and vegetables.  I had a combo of steak marsala, chicken brian and vegetables with a couple of glasses of sangria to help me sleep.  It was perfect and the fact we did not wait for anything made it even better.  So, it was back to the hotel, to double check the gear, lay out clothes for the next day and off to bed.

My race night ritual usually always includes the following; lay out my gear, go over the race in my head to include transitions and nutrition, pack everything up, double check my list one more time, lay out my clothes bib, shoes, hat and glasses in some odd way, take a picture, post it to Facebook, set my alarm and do whatever I can to get to sleep.  The latter is the hard part.  I end up so anxious that I do not usually drift off for a couple of hours.  This night was no exception except I made a small error that revealed itself way too late.

My eyes popped open the next morning and I was ready for the day.  The alarm hadn’t gone off so I thought there was no problem with just lying around for a bit to get my bearings.  As I turned over, to turn off the alarm, my eyes cleared up on the face of the clock; 4:25am it read.  WHAT??? 4:25?? I was supposed to be up at 3:30 so I had an hour to gear myself up for the race before I was supposed to be downstairs at 4:30am.  SON OF A MONKEY”S UNCLE!! (That may have not been my exact vernacular.)  I couldn’t believe I overslept.   I immediately jumped up disrobed, put on my tri shorts an shirt, took my vitamins, put in my contacts, gathered my stuff and was down in the lobby by 4:30am awaiting the rest of the crew.  No hygiene, no pre-race glide, no pre-race meal and of course what I disliked the most, the fear I would have to  use a porta potty for a bowel movement.  OH-EM-Freakin -GEE!  My head was a wreck and I knew I had to get it together.  I was so lucky, I ended up driving myself to the race because I needed a little time to pull myself together.

I finally accepted the inevitable when we parked the cars fairly near to transition.  This was a huge plus as last year we ended up walking over a mile and then dragging our bikes and gear back.  Each moment started to bring on more and more positive energy.  Not that I wasn’t still anxious, but everything was starting to align.  Setting up transition was easy breezy.  A couple of weekends prior Amy had me running through my transition setup a few times to make sure I knew what was the most efficient for me, so it was just like putting puzzle pieces together; towel, shoes, cletes, race belt run, race belt bike, helmet and glasses.  Attach the bottles, ditch the bag and my transition was officially setup.  I ran up to it once and jumped in my cletes and mimed through my first transition as a quick check and at that point I was confident at least my bike and gear were ready.  I grabbed my wet suit, a honey stinger waffle and headed to the bus for a ride back to the swim start.

Everything continued to align as the bus’s speaker roared to life with the announcement that there would be two stops.  The first being the swim start and the second being the host hotel.  “Wait!” I thought.  “Did he just say the host hotel?  Really?”  Shut the front door!  I was going to be able to use a real bathroom prior to the race.  Awesome!  While the rest of the crew decided to go straight to the swim start, Jessica and I continued on to the hotel.  The thought of using a bathroom that was not a porta potty for…well…uh…number 2, elated me.  Not to mention, the idea I may be able to actually get that cup of coffee I was expecting in the hour I planned to have prior to leaving.  YAY!!!  Jessica seemed to be just as happy about the chance to have a cup of coffee as well.

After we both accomplished what we set out for we headed out to the River Walk and headed to the swim start.  The sky had this purple hue as the orange sun started to peak through the sky.  It was gorgeous.  I was also really happy to have a few spare moments to spend with Jessica.  She had taken the trip with us specifically to be a motivator and sherpa for Beth, and I could tell that she really appreciated Jessica being here.  Beth is this type A personality that while excitable always exhibits this aura of sunshine no matter how she is feeling.  Jessica, is extremely positive, but a little more laid back, but can definitely take her Cuban persona to a higher level when provoked.  Luckily, I only experienced it positively provoked spilling sunshine and rainbows.   I found her to be charming, caring and nurturing to everyone and luckily she was there because we all needed that grounding.

Jessica and I walked up to our crew sitting on a curb gabbing while a few of the other athletes we knew all started passing by.  We said our good lucks and gave hugs, high fives and fist bumps all the while suffering from own anxiety.  Beth is the one who turned me on to blogging more regularly and she has also forged connections with other fitness and running bloggers whom I have read.  One is Swim, Bike, Mom whom is very motivating and just so happened to not only be competing but was standing not to far from a group of bloggers that Beth was acquainted with.  I was really excited to see her there.   I don’t know what it was, but I was enthralled.  Maybe because she puts a lot of her personal feelings into her blog that I felt  like I knew her, but I was sincerely happy to see and meet her in person.

I looked at my watch and noticed it was 7:15, so I did some of my Dave Scott exercises, lunges and stretches and sat down to struggle with my wet suit.  As each leg went on the anxiety increased to another level.  “Just get me past the swim”, I kept saying to myself.  “Get me on the bike and everything will be just fine.”  One more glance at my watch.  7:28am.  I had no idea what I was thinking when the first gun went off and the announcer shouted that the Pro Men were off.  I went up to the barrier and and waited for them to swim by.  They were fast and looked as though they hardly were expending any energy.  If I could just figure that out before my wave start everything would be ok, but if I didn’t have it now, I wasn’t going to have it by then.  I decided I would trust my training and just do my best to keep straight by sighting every five strokes, kick as lightly as possible and just swim till I was done.  After that, what I thought, was a quick meditation my watch said 7:46.  I said goodbye and good luck to my crew and headed for the start.

In my head.

There are always interesting thoughts floating around in my head.  Of course there is a lot of room to “float” because there is nothing else taking up any room. 

After obtaining my current running fitness, I prided myself on the fact I could run on “autopilot”, where I could lean a little forward, my legs would move but in my head I could be just about anywhere I needed to be.  My first choice for solving problems and thinking about the problems of work or life, used to be the shower.  I don’t know what it was, probably the blank walls, but with the water hitting me I could float away and tackle some of the most interesting problems.  I usually would bound out of the shower singing or yelling; “I figured it out”, whatever it was.  Now my favorite time to think about my own issues, work problems, politics, etcetera is on a really long run.  I run for miles, and sometimes even more miles than planned just zoned out, and I come back refreshed and ready to take on the world.  I love it.

Now biking is a little different.  Most rides at this point I am either doing intervals, or on group rides so I have to think about cadence, speed and the wheel in front of me, but on rides that are just me where I am also not thinking about traffic, I can sometimes get into my zone.

Swimming?  No way.  I want to, I really do.  It’s just water, right?  There are no obstacles in my way, the pool is shallow and the only real maneuver I have to do is hit the wall and turn around. so why can’t I just do my laps and let my mind go.  I am hoping it’s just right now, as I am trying to get that level of fitness from swimming that I have from running.  Swimming is newer to me, and it is definitely my worst event.  I recently talked to my LMT and Biomechanic SME about it, and she said to start off by counting.  Count  my strokes, my breathes, something just to take your mind off your stroke, then maybe later on you will be able to zone out and the workout will just go that much quicker.  I can imagine the other idea is that due to the fact I do not have the same fitness level for swimming that I have for running I have not learned to enjoy it.  That is really my goal…Enjoy Swimming!!!  I like the water, I love the beach, I am not afraid of it, so why not enjoy swimming?  Something to ponder I guess.

Until next time…Live Strong..Finish Stronger!!!

So here we go!!

It’s January 9th and I have been trying to provide a base now since November 6th.  I think I am doing pretty well.  I couldn’t swim 600 yards without changing up strokes from freestyle to sidestroke, to breaststroke.  Now I can go about 800 yards with strictly freestyle..at least in a pool.  Yesterday, January 8th 2011, I ran the Disney Half-Marathon without stopping in 1:59:32.  It is not great, but not that this is an excuse, but it was extremely crowded and I was in the very back of the pack.  Last week I cycled 40 miles, with a 5K run at the end.  I think as far as my endurance factor goes I am a little a head of the game.

Background
Just to give the story as to why.  People think I am nuts…why train for an event where you swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles and then run a marathon?  It started two years ago.  I had been working my ass off 12 -15 hour days including weekends.  I was feeling drained and I was due for a physical with a complete blood workup.  Dr. Gold basically said I was in horrible shape.  My cholesterol was high, my triglycerides were high, my good cholesterol was low, my sugar was high…I am sure the picture was obvious.  This was only 3 years after separating for the second time from the military.  I couldn’t believe I let myself get so out of shape.
Kim and I were walking around Hyde Park Village about three weeks later and we walked past Lifestyles Family Fitness.  There was a poster in the window for a Boot Camp Class. We went in and contracted to use the gym, I enrolled in Boot Camp and Kim hired a personal trainer to get her started again.  Well, from the first class I was hooked.  They had these teasers prior to the beginning of the real class and it was an intense 35 minutes of cardio, strength training, agility, stability and core exercises.  I loved it, coming from a military background where this is what we did everyday.  The difference was the emphasis on form and injury reduction. Well, the instructors, Nicole Sturtze, and Zach Thompson were a hell of lot nicer than my drill sergeants.  Two days a week for an hour I put 100% effort and sweat-ed profuciously and loved it.  One Monday morning, my eyes popped open at 5:30am and I was wide awake.  I thought, eh why not go for a run.  I ran for four miles and felt like a million dollars.  The next day after boot camp I saw a flyer for another class called Punch & Crunch, and thought, eh why not give it a try.  Melissa Trinidad was teaching, and I knew she was one of the top trainers at the gym, not to mention she was really cute.  Again, I was hooked after the first class.  Boxing paired with cardio and core was awesome.  Within a month of starting to work out twice a week, I had now more than doubled my workouts to 5 days a week.  Monday, I ran or worked out on my own, Tuesday & Thursday was Boot Camp, Wednesday and Saturday was Punch & Crunch, Friday and Sunday I took off.  Next, a friend in Boot Camp told me about this Hot Yoga down the street from the gym.  I never sweated so much in my life and felt so rejuvenated afterward.  Now I was at 6 days a week.  
Next came the game changer – Scott Bragan, another Boot Camp friend, started mentioning the Chicago Marathon and how he was doing it for charity.  The PKD foundation.  Perocystic Kidney Disease.  His mother-in-law had a transplant, his wife was diagnosed with it, and his daughter had a 50/50 chance of coming down with it because she carried the gene.  My need to help kicked in, so I decided to talk to him about it, and before I knew it we had 10 members of Team Tampa PKD and were starting a plan to fund raise to a goal of $25,000!!  With that we also trained together.  Two six week sessions of boot camp, combined with Punch & Crunch, and Yoga allowed my first training run, to be 9 miles.  I couldn’t believe I was starting to train for a marathon and I could already comfortably run 9 miles.  I was jazzed.  
Well, Scott also mentioned another activity he did…Triathlons.  I had partaken in a couple of triathlons in high school and I enjoyed them, so I thought, what a great way to break up the training for the marathon by swimming and biking and participating in a couple of sprint triathlons as well.  I ended up participating in two that summer, the Mease Plant Point and the Top Gun and loved them…well…except for the swim.  I just wanted to get that over with. 
We did end up raising the 25000 bucks and then some and everyone finished the marathon with decent times, except for me.  I ended up injuring myself two weeks before with a herniated disc at L5/S1 and was in recovery during the marathon.  I did go to Chicago that weekend and I did take some great pics, and cheer on my team, but I was really bummed.  That was October 2009.
Since then I have been in a few more small races, 5Ks and 10Ks, a couple of half-marathons, three more triathlons and have continued to train.  I have not missed a boot camp session since then and I feel I am pretty good shape.  Last November a friend from a running group I have been running  with, the Blue Sharks, told me she did a couple of Full Ironman Triathlons.  I was really impressed.  She then mentioned she was going to volunteer at the Florida Ironman and asked if I wanted to go.  I thought it would be really cool to see all these elite athletes do this incredible event.  I went and had an awesome time and got hooked.  I was in the transition tent from the Bike to the Run and the Pro-athletes came in and they were systematic and quick.  Then the age-groupers came in and some of them were the same as the pros and some of them just took there time, had a break and then continued on to the run.  I was enthralled at the amount of people, and all the types of people that were going through this event.  Of course the next part is what really hooked me.  About 9pm we all decided to hang out at the finish line.  Let me preface this by saying the race started at 7 am, so this was 14 hours after the start of the race…Four…teen…..hours! Teresa (the culprit who hooked me into this) said this was the best part of the race because this is the “regular” people finished.  The people who had regular jobs, kids, responsibilities that had to fit all this training in apart from that.  Coming over the finish line were women and men in excess of 280 pounds, a blind man, a disabled man, men and women in excess of 60 years old, and my favorite a 16 time age grouper that was 76.  Yes, that’s right SEVENTY-SIX years old and he came over the finish line before the cut-off of 17 hours.  There are those people like myself who do not look there age.  There are seventy-six year olds out there whom look fifty or even 60.  No…this guy looked the all of seventy-six he was.  This is what got me hooked…if they could do it…I definitely could do it.   
The plan
I have to mention that I really do not want to be racing for 17 hours.  If I finish it in 16 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds…I will be happy that I completed it, but I really do not want to be racing for that long.  I found a guy Ben Greenfield who is an awesome athlete and a very knowledgeable athlete whom has developed a plan to get average joes like me through the Ironman with an acceptable amount of training hours that might not completely infringe on my responsibilities.  I also have met with a swim coach, my doctor, my chiropractor and a license massage therapist whom is also a bio-mechanics expert and a USAT Level 1 certified trainer.  With all this support, I hope to conquer this quest.  
At the moment I am doing my own base training right now, with an emphasis on getting comfortable in the saddle of my bike, and becoming relaxed and efficient in the water.  Ben’s plan is a 36 week plan, so it does not actually start until the last week in February.  I have increased my weekday workouts from an hour to two in order to get my body used to working hard longer, and continue to do boot camp.
Here is to hoping my plan works out, and no injuries or re-injuries will stop me.
Live Strong, Finish Stronger!!!