Monday, July 19, 2010

What my 7 year old and 5 year old taught me about Triathlon

Yesterday was NOT a good training day for me. I had a 50 mile bike ride scheduled and I already had a headache going into the ride. Even so, I was still motivated to do the ride! I really enjoy being on the bike, but yesterday things just didn’t go my way.

The route I chose to take yesterday was one that I had never taken before. I like to use my long bike rides as my “exploration days” and ride places I haven’t been before, but I think that may need to change! I clipped into the pedals and I was on the road. Things didn’t start off so great. In addition to the headache I was dealing with, I had to drink two bottles of water within the first hour. Maybe a sign I was dehydrated going in?

Any who, I got on the bike and, despite the headache, the first hour I was feeling very strong. I really wanted to challenge myself. I was in the big ring the entire time and getting out of the saddle to attack hills. On this particular route there were PLENTY of hills. This is totally new for me. I haven’t felt comfortable in the past getting out of the saddle.

Actually, I haven’t felt comfortable doing anything on the bike instead of cycling! I couldn’t even take one hand off the bike to pedal two weeks ago! Now I’m getting out of the saddle and last week I was able to un-strap my left cycling shoe while it was still in the pedal [non-triathlete readers, this is like a big deal because it just looks cool :)]. Not such a big deal for seasoned riders! I nearly wrecked last week when I tried to un-strap my right shoe. So, I am getting more comfortable on the bike, which I hope equates to getting stronger overall.

Because I was hitting so many hills I spent 90% of the ride out of the aero position and riding on the hoods which was extremely uncomfortable. I had taxed my legs early on in the ride, the headache was killing me, and my water was starting to boil (maybe exaggerating a little). Mentally I was coming undone. At that point I just wanted to go home. Unfortunately, I did. Somewhere in the midst of ALL of those EXCUSES it seemed like the best thing to do!

What was interesting was once I made it home, I was extremely disappointed in myself. None of those excuses mattered. I had…quit. I didn’t want to blog about this but I feel like I have to be honest with first myself, and second the people that are supporting me. I felt a lot of emptiness about stopping 20 miles early.

I even felt a little hypocritical because yesterday was also my children’s first kid triathlon. Leading up to the triathlon I had been preaching to them that the two most important things to do were to have fun and not quit. And what had I just done?

Two hours after quitting early on my training ride I was headed to my children’s house to pick them up for their first ever kid triathlon. They always call my races the “BIG RACE” so today was their “BIG RACE”. I was so excited to watch them following in my footsteps, but I was also EXTREMELY nervous.

My son enjoys the pool but can be a bit apprehensive when it comes to being in the water. My daughter LOVES the water but the distances she had to cover made me a little nervous for her. Here is the kicker, my children don’t know how to swim. They were able to use a kickboard for their swim which made it possible for them to participate.

My son’s wave started first (4-6 year old boys) and of course my son, whom I was EXTREMELY nervous for in the swim start, was in the deepest part of the pool – 17 feet deep!!! All I could think about was what if he slips off the board?! I was ready to jump right in that pool to get him! They counted the boys down… 10-9-8-7 all the way to 1. It was a loud count down because everyone was excited to get this race stated after a rain delay.

One great thing about the lane he was in was that his was an end lane. That meant I was never more than 3 feet away from him because I was able to walk along the edge with him while he swam (that was a God thing!). I never worried about Kealan except on the swim. He is a tough kid with lots of energy to burn, which often leads to “boy” behavior and gets him into trouble! Kealan had a great swim, although he was getting tired toward the end, but pushed it out to finish. He did one lap around the track on his bike and then a 300 yard run. All of the children were so cute! They ran with their bike helmets on! It was the cutest thing ever!!! Can you imagine if the pros ran the marathon like that in the Ironman? That would be hilarious!

I was able to run alongside Kealan as he sprinted to the finish. And yup! I got emotional. It was parental pride, excitement, and the fact that my son is a big-boy and just completed his first triathlon. Ol’ Mr. Kealan, who is full of personality, walked away from the finish like he was the man! ha! He had a certain strut to his walk! You could tell he was proud of his accomplishment. Even so, I think I was probably more excited about this triathlon finish than he was. Kealan’s event was actually over pretty quickly and all went well!

Having fought a once-losing battle with my weight most of my life, I have always made it a goal as a parent to try to instill sports and healthy living into my children’s lives. Watching Kealan finish and seeing the smile on his face confirmed for me that was a great activity for him. He was pushing himself and enjoying it.

Isabella had a tougher race ahead of her and I knew it. The distance she had to complete most adults probably couldn’t do, or at least wouldn’t do! Yet there she was…my brave little girl, ready to go! It is in every father’s heart to protect their children, especially their daughters, but at what point do you stop protecting them in order to teach them a life lesson?

Isabella’s wave (7-8 year old girls) wore pink swim caps, which she loved! (Kealan’s wave wore yellow). While she was getting ready for the swim, I asked Isabella if she was nervous and with the sweetest smile you’ve ever seen she said, “A little.” Oh Isabella my sweet little girl, I know that nervousness!

Again, the crowd began to count down from 10. Once the crowd reached 1, Isabella started her 50 yard swim, 1 mile bike ride, and 0.3 mile run. She started really strong! I was impressed that she wasn’t that far behind the swimmers and had a really solid kick going. By the time Isabella reached the turn around the other swimmers had created a huge gap. Isabella looked around and noticed she was one of the last people in the water, but even so she continued to kick with everything she had. I wondered what she was thinking when she looked around and saw that most of her peers were swimming without a kickboard. I know what I was thinking! “Isabella you will be truly swimming in this triathlon next year!!!”

Isabella made it out of the water and prepared to jump on her bike. I helped tie her shoes and as I’m tying you know what that little rascal asked me?! “Dad, are you almost done so I can go?” Geesh Isabella, well I guess she was in race mode! She took off out of the transition area smiling and in full stride.

The way the spectator area was set up it was a journey to see the bike portion. I missed Isabella’s first lap but made it in time to see her last two. She was moving along and by her third lap I could see she was getting tired. She jumped off her bike and started the 0.3 mile run. This is where my 7 year old daughter taught ME the lesson I had been trying to teach to both of my children!

Isabella started her one lap run and about halfway through began holding the right side of her abdomen. Yup! A side stitch! We have all been there and know what painful little buggers those things can be. Suddenly my little girl’s race didn’t look fun. I was immediately overcome with guilt. I was trying to teach her a lesson about achieving goals through fitness and it was causing her so much physical pain. So much, in fact she began to cry. Gulp. I held back tears as I tried to encourage her. “It’s ok Isabella. You can walk a little. Let’s walk to this cone and….hey! There’s your mom. Walk to this cone then run to your mom!” Her mom saw that Isabella was having a tough race and ran over to encourage her as well. At this point Isabella was really crying…LOUD! I felt like the worst dad ever!

By the time Isabella made it to her mom she was at the same starting point as Kealan’s run; 300 yards to go. Isabella, with a look of fierce determination, sprinted to the finish while her mom and I ran alongside her. She was holding her side and crying…tears streaming down her face uncontrollably. Hey, she finished! She and her brother were then given participant ribbons (They weren’t handing those out at the end of Kealan’s race).

Isabella was still crying as her grandmother and other family members came over to tell her how proud of her they were! I could see something starting to change inside her at that point. Those tears of pain and frustration were starting to give way to a smile. She was starting to feel accomplished. She finished a tough race and earned her title as a kid triathlete.

When it was time to start heading toward the car, Isabella said, “We don’t have to run do we?” Ha! No we don’t have to run now Isabella! En route to the car we passed a big tent where they were setting up trophies. I saw both Isabella and Kealan eyeing the trophies. I told them they can get them next year if they compete in all 4 triathlons of the series.

They were both immediately ready to sign up for next year’s triathlons! Isabella had forgotten about the pain she had experienced and was basking in her accomplishment. Her pain didn’t matter at all! She had achieved her goal and was ready for the next event. They both were!

As we were all walking to the vehicles, I found myself walking alone. I called Isabella, who was really smiling now, to walk with me. Something was baffling me! Something I needed to understand about my daughter. I asked Isabella, in that calm you-can-be-honest-with-me daddy voice, “Isabella, you could have stopped when you were hurting. Baby, why didn’t you stop?”

She looked up at me and said in calm, assured voice, “I wanted to finish.”

I let Isabella walk ahead of me after that. I couldn’t let her see me wiping the tears from my eyes. Even as I write this I can feel the tears starting to form in my eyes. That’s it baby, I get it! My daughter in that very moment taught me the lesson that I had been trying to instill in both of my children. Despite what she was feeling in that moment, she had a goal that was bigger than the pain she was feeling.

Somehow, I let that determination slip away from me in my training ride earlier in the day. My mental toughness had waned. How did this happen? I have a goal that is bigger than what I was feeling on my training ride. It’s not every day your 7 year old teaches you a lesson about competition. I certainly needed to be reminded of this one. So I wouldn’t forget again…I asked Isabella again why she didn’t stop and this time I got her answer on video.

My son and daughter aren’t yet swimmers, but they were brave enough to get into the water to race. They didn’t care if they beat anyone or not. They could have come in last and would still have enjoyed the post-race pizza party just the same! They competed against themselves and probably never even thought about not finishing the race. It probably never crossed their minds. The best part? The absolute best part was on the way home… they both were talking about next year’s competitions and winning those trophies!

I learned a lot from my children yesterday. In fact, I learned what I had been trying to teach them.

“Kealan and Isabella! What are the two most important things to remember today?”


“And what else?”


Thanks guys for teaching daddy a lesson!

p.s. I will be adding video and pictures shortly.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

And I want to sing a song for you Lord

Unfortunately, my voice was not the gift God decided to give me to bless the world. So my song has been changed to triathlon. I’m not breaking any records but I want to sing a song, “with everything that’s in me Lord listen to me sing.” I realized that this journey to the Ironman has actually brought me closer to God. For several reasons, I find myself leaning on Him more but not just in triathlon but in my personal life as well. God has answered every prayer! Yet, I have to also realize when he decided NOT to give me what I thought I needed that was His answer. Often we get confused when we pray for a new car or home. When we don’t get those things, we think it’s God not answering our prayers. Yet in reality the prayer has been answered and we just didn’t like the answer!

In triathlon, the participants cannot wear audio devices such as iPods and other listening devices. I made the decision early on to train how I fight. When I was in the army we lived by that motto. We would essentially train the way we fight. Or, in this instance train the way I race. In lieu of having an iPod, I remember lyrics to my favorite Christian songs. The song in the video has been on repeat in my head for the last couple of training events.

I had an 8 mile run in the rain with tornado warnings! I went out to run because I want to sing a song with everything that’s in me! When I started the run, the rain wasn’t as heavy as it once was. It would settle to a drizzle and then become heavy at times. Of course by time the run was over, the rain had stopped. But I know people that saw me running was listening to me “sing.” That run was awesome! I did the run in my Five Fingers and I think I have found my stride in them! It was interesting because My feet were soaked and I was totally expecting blisters. However, I did not have ONE blister or rub mark. It’s because these shoes really fit like a glove. That was something I found really exciting.

My last couple of swim workouts I have pushed much harder than I have “with everything that’s in me Lord…I want to sing a song for You, I want to sing a song.” I have accepted I am not the best, or the fastest, but it will NOT deter me from doing my best! The children at the orphanage are counting on me. Oh yeah the orphanage. The reason I embarked on this journey was in fact a calling from God. Seriously, the only reason I even consider doing an Ironman was because I felt like God wanted me to in order to raise money for Ciudad de Angeles. To donate to my race page please visit

Today I have a 50mile bike ride. I am really tired! And I am totally falling asleep! But I need to do this ride!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Race Strategy: Gotta get stronger on the bike!

“It’s not about the bike” is the title of Lance Armstrong’s book. I wish I could say that. For me, it’s all about the bike! Five months to go before I toe the line. It’s no secret the run is my weakest event. It’s actually pretty funny to say that considering I just started swimming less that a year ago yet I feel confident in the swim. Don’t get me wrong I still have my concerns about the Ironman Swim start! Yet running is my weakness. I think there are a lot of mental blocks there that keep me in my “comfort zone.” Yes, what I am saying is I choose to be slow. Not intentionally though. The mental blocks keep me there. I’m working on them.

Ok, so with less than 5 months to go I have to start working on my race strategy. I told Lance (my coach) I wanted to get stronger on the bike. If you recall that is where I made the least improvements. So, for the next 4 and a half months I will be building a stronger bike. My idea ( and please tell me if you disagree guys please!) is that if I build a stronger bike it will give me more of a cushion on he run. Or should I focus on the run because I know I can get through the bike and the run is the last and hardest event? Dilemma!

I have spent the last couple of days looking at Ironman DNF (did not finish) blog entries. I saw that someone else (I cant recall who) blogged they were looking at DNF stories. I hate to see them and read about them but I want to learn what they wished they could have done differently. Mostly the stories have attributed the DNF to stomach issues. One story I read was a mental issue.

Lance Leo told me early on the pain in the Ironman is real. VERY REAL. There is no escaping it. I know it was just a half ironman but I heard how loud those demons can scream. It is a bit scary to think they will be screaming LOUDER than they were in New Orleans. I wont ask myself if I am ready! I just have to pick what voice I will listen to! (the Voice of Truth). I will admit though…the closer I get to Ironman Cozumel, the more I can hear their whispers slowly, gently, and innocently making their way to my head.

To my IronPartner!

Thank God for the Iron PARTNER! Often times they are forgotten by the spectators in awe of the Ironmen and women crossing the finish line. Yet they nevermind being the true unsung hero of the Ironman. They make it all happen! I am grateful to God for my Iron partner KP! She has dealt with my crankiness from sleepless nights. Helped when I haven’t done laundry in weeks because I have been too tired or just truly didn’t have time to do it. KP, let the world know that you are my hero.

Thanks for the times you have watched the children on long rides or swim workouts. Thanks for being the voice of “YOU CAN!” when all I was hearing was the voice of “CANT” so clearly in my head. You were my lighthouse during my first open water swims when I panicked. I thought that all I had to do was swim to you as if you were my lighthouse. You have consistently been the face I looked for just before the swim start. And the face I have seen smiling jumping and cheering right after! Thanks KP! Thank you for being by my side!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why I will NEVER wear a tradtional running shoe again!

I am a skeptic because I am ALWAYS that guy. If something works for 99.9 percent of the population, I have come to accept chances are I am the 0.1 percent that it wont work for. I have had two running related injuries. Plantar Fasciitis and a patella tracking issues in my left knee. Both have cause pain while running. The knee issue was almost a deal breaker for me.

I heard about these guys running barefoot and how it has totally eliminated their running related injuries. One was from a Facebook friend Tim Ferrell. I have never met Tim but he has become an awesome friend. He did Ironman Cozumel last year and has answered questions for me when I had no one else to ask. One day I was checking out his Facebook Ironman Cozumel pics and saw he was wearing Five Fingers ( the barefoot running alternative shoe). I asked him about it and he stated they have helped him overcome his running related injuries. Good for you (but it wouldn’t work for me). Don’t forget... I’m the 0.1 percent the running barefoot won’t work for.

Another lady in my running group wears them and when I first saw them I, like most people, couldn’t come up with wise cracks fast enough! They honestly look bordered cool-looking and absolutely ridiculous! She also swore by them. I also came across a few reviews online and people were talking about how Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) have changed their running for the better.

Prior to Ironman New Orleans, I had a huge issue with pain in my left knee. After about 200 dollars in co-pays to a chiropractor, I was running pain free in New Orleans. I decided that paying 200 dollars again was just not something I was looking forward to doing again. I decided to buy the VFF Bikila model. The VFF Bikila is their run-specific barefoot alternative running shoe. It looks and feels like the VFF KSO but adds a little more traction on the sole of the shoe. (by the way, after a month with my five fingers I bought a second pair to walk around in. that's right you guessed it! The VFF KSO-pronounced "kay-so")
After the first week of wearing the barefoot running shoes (didn’t run in them the first week just walked…a LOT). I decided I was going to read the book that really ignited the barefoot running rage; “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. This book was an inspiring, well written book. I believe every runner should read this book even if you don’t subscribe to the barefoot running philosophy. This book has done for my running, what the Bible has done for my life. It changed everything I thought about running. EVERYTHING!
I felt like this book freed me. Do you remember the movie Matrix. Neo thought he was living in the “real world” only to find out he had been lied to. He was living in the Matrix. A digitally created world. Then he is freed by Morpheus. When Neo is brought into the real world he opens his eyes and asks Morpheus,

"Why do my eyes hurt?”

“Because you haven’t used them before”

That is exactly how I felt after I wore the VFFs the first day. The muscles around my ankles were sore. Not like a painful hurt but more like they had a good workout. The same way you feel when you have a good workout at the gym.

I didn’t understand why they were sore until I read the book “Born to Run” Those muscles were sore because like NEO I thought I was using them when I walked. The truth is..."I never used them before" because my shoes kept those muscles from engaging. Read the book it is a great read. You will understand what I am talking about after you read it.

Ok, why I wont wear traditional running shoes ever again! The trick to wearing these shoes is you have to build mileage. You cant go out one day and do even a 5k in these shoes. You have to build the muscles and tendons in your feet in order to take the impacts of running barefoot (or running in VFF’s).

Having said that, I had an 8 mile run scheduled. I had been running in these shoes for about 4 weeks at the time but wasn’t even close to running 8 miles in the Five Fingers. So, after some good advice, I ran in my old running shoes. After the first mile, the first mile of running in these traditional shoes, I was starting to feel a familiar pain...pain in my left knee! The FIRST mile! It took ONE mile before I was feeling pain. Today, after a six mile run in the VFFs...NO PAIN!

Another huge difference I noticed was my running shoes make it comfortable to heel strike which is likely causing my running issues. The VFFs force me to mid-foot strike which is a lot easier on the entire body. Watch the video below. Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman explains a little more than I can in this video. Dr. Lieberman is talked about quite a bit in the book.

So, it seems that for now, I am not the 0.1 percent. Good luck and read the book!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Today I met Herb Brown!

Today was a makeup swim. I don’t typically swim on Saturdays but I needed to make up this swim and I am glad I did. There was a young fellow there, who had light freckled skin. You can see that he was once an athletic male and that his hair wasn’t always white. It was likely strawberry blonde or red when he was in his prime. His skin showed his age but his enthusiasm for life told a different number. There was one lane open and I asked the 74 year old swimmer if he wanted to share this lane. He agreed and we both began to prepare for our workouts.

I carry my swim gear in my New Orleans 70.3 bag because it is perfect for my swim gear. It is also a reminder of why I take that bitterly cold first plunge into the pool. He asked if I did New Orleans Half Ironman and I proudly exclaimed (likely with my chest poked out just a bit) yes and it was a tough day. His reply wasn’t something I was expecting to hear. He congratulated me and told me he was in taper for Ironman USA (Lake Placid)! WOW! That is a tough course! Last year the average bike speed was 18mph. That is a far cry from other courses that average 22-24mph. Ironman Lake Placid it notoriously hilly; or at least that is what I am told.

Yeah big deal right, anyone can taper for an Ironman. Yeah except I was talking to someone who was making his SECOND trip to Ironman USA after completing it last year! “Herb Brown…You are an IRONMAN!” Mike Riley said 16 hours and 25 minutes after the cannon fired on that 2009 summer day in Lake Placid, NY.

When he walked into the swim area he was greeted by another swimmer which confirmed this guy is a regular. He was a very personable guy. One of those guys you don’t forget when you meet them. Im sure I could learn a lot from this “old man.” I’m certain he housed stories from the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam just to name a few. Yet the one thing I would have LOVED to hear about would have been his experience at Ironman Lake Placid.

I once heard the announcer on an Ironman Kona broadcast say in order to make the “Impossible”--“Possible” all you have to do is remove the letters “I-M”—IronMan! Herb Brown is an Inspiration!