Ironman Louisville 2014 – Done!

More details to come, but yes, I finished Ironman Louisville 2014. I got the tee-shirt and everything.

I’ll put up another post and try to add some pics tomorrow.

Posted in Ironman | Leave a comment

What’s Done is Done

The training is over. I’m off to Ironman Louisville. I’ll get some light workouts in between now and Sunday, but only to remind my body what we’re doing. No gains will be made.

I may or may not get a chance to post again before Sunday. If not, my bib is lucky number 1734. My goal is 13 hours. We’ll see what happens. God bless!

Posted in Health and Fitness, Ironman | 4 Comments

Mennonite Ladies and Butt Sores

Last Saturday I rode a bike farther than any man before me. Call Guinness because this is definitely a world record. This amazing feat will astound all who hear of it. I will be counted among the likes of Sir Edmund Hilary, Charles Lindbergh, and Magellan. I can only imagine the adoration and attention I will receive from throngs of devoted fans.

How far did I ride last Saturday? It’s time to tell the world! I rode 106 miles! Yes, you read that correctly. I’ll spell it out like on a check: one hundred six miles.

OK, I was just over at researching the longest rides and it turns out that 106 miles isn’t that far of a ride. I’d like to apologize to all those people who put their trust in me. Cancel that call to Guinness. Call the Guinness Extra Stout people instead.

Well, it seemed long to me. Up until last Saturday the farthest I ever rode was 80 miles. I’ve been building up the miles on these long rides in preparation for Ironman Louisville. Is it wise to ride 100 miles two weeks before an Ironman? Recovery wise I feel fine. I actually felt fine even the next day. During the ride, however, I felt pretty beat up.

I rode the Katy Trail from Clinton, MO up through Sedalia. I took a couple of detours on some side country roads just for a change of pace, but at some point beyond Sedalia my odometer read 56 miles, so I turned around and started for home. I didn’t detour on the way back. The trail seemed rougher with a lot more ruts that usual. Not the big kind of wreck-your-bike ruts, but those smaller ones that make it seem like you’re riding over rumble strips on the side of the highway.

When I made the turn back toward home I was out of water. I knew I’d run out, but I knew of at least two Casey’s that I could stop at, and I figured there would be something in Sedalia. Well I rode all the way through Sedalia and didn’t see anything convenient, so I kept riding. That was kind of a mistake. Altogether I probably rode 20 miles without anything to drink. That doesn’t seem so bad, and thankfully it wasn’t hot, but I wanted to stay hydrated and finish strong. I rolled into Greenridge and bought a Gatorade and a bottle of A&W Cream Soda. I never drink soda anymore, but I figured I would easily burn off the carbs before I got home, and besides, world record holders deserve a little treat every now and then.

I made it back and, yeah, I felt pretty thrashed. I wasn’t dead, though. I sprinted the last 3/4 of a mile (keep in mind, my sprinting is a real cyclist’s easy spin). The ride did encourage me in one way, and discouraged me in another.

I got home, took and ice bath, took a shower, dressed, got something to eat. By that time it was about 5 o’clock. I started the ride that morning about the time I plan on exiting the swim in Louisville, not by design, it just happened that way. During the ride I stopped to smell the roses (pee), stopped at Casey’s (drank my A&W at a picnic table), weaved my way through the biggest Boy Scout troop in the world who apparently have not earned the Katy Trail bike etiquette badge yet, skirted my way around the Mennonite ladies who acted as though it was unseemly for someone to want to get around them on the trail, and in general didn’t treat it at all as a race. So when I got home and did all that stuff and saw that it wasn’t quite five yet I was encouraged because if this was the day of the race, I’d still have seven hours to complete the marathon.

I was discouraged, however, because I developed a couple of saddle sores. Yes, even the likes of me can get a saddle sore, apparently. I’ve never had trouble with those before, but then, I’d never ridden 100 miles. Well, they’re healing up so I should be fine by next Sunday.

Today I have to get everything ready. Gather all my gear, make some final decisions about fueling during the race, decide if I’m going to chicken out or not. It’s a big day. Not to mention I have to wash all that Katy Trail dust off my bike.

Have a great week. If you ride the Katy Trail, ride on the right and assume that someone will need to pass you at some point. Otherwise, God bless.


I’m adding this just for posterity: I wrecked my bike on some railroad tracks about a mile into the ride. I jacked up my wrist and tore some handlebar tap, otherwise everything is fine. My wrist is healing, though still a little sore. What I hurt most was my pride.


Here’s my favorite thing about riding the trail: Coming up on a road where the car has the right of way. You see one coming so you slow down, unclip, and come to a complete stop. Then the driver sees you and stops as well, and then waves you through. Now, my rule is, once I’m waved, I go. That’s true for the bike, in my truck, whatever. I don’t play the you go, no you go game. You wave, I go. But it’s hard to be grateful to the driver once you’ve unclipped and stopped. Now you have to get moving again, clip in, and wave at the driver like he’s so noble for letting you pass. I should probably just relax about all that.

Posted in Cycling, Health and Fitness, Ironman, marathon, triathlon | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stockton Lake Triathlon-Gettin’ Mushy on the Dam

Wow! A lot has happened since I last blogged. Well, a lot relative to my level of activity. Sometimes we bloggers are a little like those 70s singer-song writers. We got to write about every little thing that happens to us.

Well I went to the store to get a case of beer
Met an old girl friend and we talked for an hour
She’s married to some dude and I’m still doing my thing

You know what I’m talking about.

Did I ever tell you about the time I put salt in my energy drink? Oh yes, it’s worthy of a whole blog post and…oh, nevermind.

Here’s something we’ll all be interested in-my Stockton Lake Tri Wildlife Challenge race report! OK, I don’t do race reports, I just write about what I can remember. What I can remember is 11th place overall out of 40 (long course) and 2nd (out of four) in my age group. That’s what I love about these small races-I have a chance of winning something. I just considered this race a training day. I had a two-hour run on the schedule, but then this came up so I went for it. I wanted to get another tri under my belt this year anyways in preparation for Ironman Louisville.

My times are what they are:

1000 meter swim: 23:08
20.8 mile bike: 1:10:02 (17.8 MPH)
10K run: 23:57 (8:38 pace)
Overall: 2:29:39

OK, so 2nd place in my age group with those times means there weren’t a lot of fast guys there, but that’s not to diminish the achievements of the winners. The overall winner finished in 1:57:58. The amazing thing about that is the dude is 53 years old! What the heck? The winner of my age group finished in 2:09:29. He was also 2nd overall. One other thing about the results – I beat all the girls! Woo hoo! Once again, gotta love these small races and enjoy it while it lasts. I’m sure next year I’ll be smoked by some even older dudes, and probably some older ladies.

I encourage everyone who can to sign up for this race next year if they have it. This was the inaugural race. It’s nice two-loop swim in Stockton Lake, which is a clear-water lake. I’d never done a two-loop swim, so that was cool. The bike course is hilly, but no long climbs. The hills aren’t rolling, they’re better described as jagged. No sooner do you get to the top of one and you’re immediately zooming down the other side. The run takes you across asphalt roads, a winding trail through the woods, across the dam, and then back.

Oh, I did win something, besides the finisher medal. My number got drawn for a door prize. It was a race belt with a magnetic clasp. So that’s something.

Just a couple more items. I’ve started using salt tabs during training, and I used them in the Stockton Tri. I really think they are helping me stay hydrated. Since I’ve begun using them I haven’t felt sick during those long, hot runs. I first experimented with salt by putting a teaspoon in my water bottles before heading out, but even that amount makes it taste way too salty, like when you swallow the Atlantic or something. The salt tabs are much more tolerable. Whether it’s the placebo effect or they really do help my body absorb the fluid I consume I’m going to keep using them for long workouts and long races.

The other thing about the race is that it reminded me how thankful to God I should be for the blessings I enjoy. As I ran across that dam I looked down over a beautiful, green valley and it seemed like I could see forever. On the other side was the glistening lake. I reflected on how blessed I was to have a healthy body, healthy enough to complete a tri on my own two legs. I thought about my beautiful family, including my wife and daughter who were waiting for me at the finish line. At that point I wondered what the hell I had to complain about. Nothing. I had nothing to complain about. Thank God for the means, the health, and the support I have to participate in this hobby we call triathlon.

There is a verse from one of those singer-songwriters that goes through my mind during a long training session or race. It’s from the incomparable James Taylor and it’s basically a prayer:

Won’t you look down on my Jesus
You gotta help me make a stand
You just gotta see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
I won’t make it any other way

I know what he’s talking about.

Posted in Cycling, Health and Fitness, Ironman, Running, Swimming, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Viva le Tour

For some reason I’ve become addicted to Le Tour de France. Maybe not addicted, but I’ve watched some of each stage this year and I’ve seen the finish of most of the stages. I guess for me it’s all about the finish.

It’s amazing to me that a group of almost 200 guys can start out on bikes, travel 140 or so miles, and the difference between first and second that day will be the width of a bike tire. For me, it’s similar to auto racing. I’m not a huge fan of auto racing, but I appreciate the science, engineering, and level of support it takes to get a car to travel 500 miles at full speed.

My favorite finishes in the TdF are the ones where 2, 3, or even 4 teams have organized and are at the front of the peloton with 4 or 5 kilometers to go. The teams arrange themselves in columns with their top rider at the rear. Then as they approach the finish, less than a kilometer away, they all start sprinting, and the lead riders of those columns start peeling off the front in succession until, at just a few meters to the finish, the top riders are left to battle it out, having benefited from the draft of their team.

The other thing about the peloton is how fast it moves. I know it doesn’t look so fast watching on TV, but they tell me it’s moving at 25-28 MPH over flat roads, and 21-25 MPH up hill. And that’s over a course measuring 100 miles and more. Each day. For three weeks in a row. With dozens of cyclists just inches from each other. I’ll admit, cycling is not for everyone. Most people see it the way I see soccer on TV (zzzzzzz), but there’s something mesmerizing about watching the peloton wind its way around the French countryside (just like it’s mesmerizing to watch Snoopy sneak across the French countryside in the Great Pumpkin every year, but that’s a digression).

I have to admit, I’m not a great cyclist. I can’t even say I love to go out and ride, but watching le Tour makes me feel like I could go out a ride a century no problem.

There’s not any one rider for whom I root. I don’t know any of the guys well enough to get behind them. I do dig the drama on Team Sky where they decided to leave Bradley Wiggins (the winner two years ago) at home in favor of Chris Froome (the winner last year), but Froome crashed early in the race and is out. Surely they rue the day they left Wiggins and his sideburns home and off the rue de Rivoli.

No discussion about the Tour de France is complete without mentioning doping, is it? May I get a little philosophical? Rules are rules and when we voluntarily enter a race we should go by the rules of that race, but why should doping be illegal? They are called performance enhancing drugs. As athletes, almost everything they do is performance enhancing. Nutrition, work outs, massages, hydration, practice-it’s all performance enhancing. So why is a performance enhancing drug not allowed?

To answer my own question I guess I’d say it’s because it provides an unfair advantage over those who don’t want to use a drug to enhance their performance. Why wouldn’t they want to use a drug? Because there could be harmful side effects. But what if there weren’t any harmful side effects, at least not any more harmful than the rigors of completing a 2000 mile race in three weeks? The possible side effects of erythropoietin (EPO, one of the drugs Lance used) are high blood pressure, swelling, fever, dizziness, nausea, pain at the injection site. I had all that and more after my last marathon. EPO is given to cancer patients to make them feel better!

Then there’s the whole question of what’s a drug and what’s a supplement. I use protein powder in my shakes. It’s said to be performance enhancing and is certainly not natural in the sense that it’s naturally occuring in the form I use it. In fact it had to be developed in a lab and then produced via man-made processes.

Me? I go by the rules. I don’t draft (triathlon). I don’t cross the double yellow line, I don’t wear my earbuds, I don’t even use performance enhancing drugs. I do understand, however, why an athlete would be tempted to do so. I suppose a world class athlete is always looking for that something that will put him over the top. Once you’ve trained as hard as you can train, and your bike weighs next to nothing, and your coaches are introducing you to it, I can see why someone would free base a little EPO, especially if he thought he could get away with it.

In the end, though, le Tour did the right thing in vacating all those titles. Sure, eveyone was doing it, but rules are rules. Let’s hope the fellows this year are clean as a whistle so we don’t feel dirty later for watching all these stages.

Posted in Cycling, Health and Fitness, iPod, marathon, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Viva Las Vegas! or, Working Out in Paradise

Last week I was in fabulous Las Vegas. Don’t despair, this isn’t a pretentious travel blog. Lord knows we have enough of those. So I won’t bore you with the details of where I stayed and what I thought of the hotel’s amenities. Instead, this is a pretentious triathlon blog, so I’ll regale you with exciting accounts of my Las Vegas workouts. Fasten your seatbelt and return your seatback to the full and upright position, we’re preparing for our final descent.

I went to Vegas for the stereotypical conference. That was Monday through Wednesday morning. Then my wife and I took a couple of extra days to be tourists. We got in Sunday afternoon, and, since I didn’t want to gamble with trying to find the fitness center in the morning, we scouted it out that evening. We found it, but I was disappointed to see it didn’t open until 6AM. 6AM? I flew west and was looking forward to waking up nice and early and getting a good workout in before the sun came up. So as nice as the conference hotel was, and it was quite nice (too nice for a simple triathlete like me), it already had one strike against it-a fitness center with too late a start.

However, once inside the fitness center the next morning I found that it was a very nice fitness center. They had bikes and treadmills. They even had those escalator treadmill things. I’ve always liked working out on those. They also had free weights, not just those motion restricting Nautilus machines that are so popular with hotels these days.

I eventually made it to the fitness center, but not before a fruitless attempt to jog The Strip. On Monday I woke up nice and early, before the gym opened, so I thought I’d jog down the strip to get a lay of the land. Once outside I saw that there were way too many people out on the sidewalks, still, to even walk in a straight line, let alone try to run. At that hour there were still people coming in and/or going out.

Have you ever heard of the Electric Daisy Carnival? Apparently it’s some kind of music festival. Well I had never heard of it, but it was going on in Vegas that weekend and there were about 10,000 kids running all over the place, getting in this old man’s way. Besides there being so many of them, they were all dressed like this:

Electric Daisy Carnival kids

Electric Daisy Carnival kids

I saw one girl, and I’m not trying to be suggestive, I’m just telling you because I thought it was interesting, who, where there would normally be a bikini bottom, had something about the size of a silver dollar, held on with bikini straps. The dudes were also dressed funny but their outfits weren’t nearly as interesting.

So then, I, uh, where was I? Oh yes, working out at the hotel. You know, compared to everything else that was happening in Vegas my workouts probably weren’t that interesting, so let me say I got a good workout in on Monday and Tuesday morning, a decent swim in on Wednesday, and an OK workout on Thursday. I took off on Friday.

But on top of all those workouts my wife and I walked, and walked, and walked. We walked many, many miles up and down the strip, and all over Hoover Dam (yep, we drove down there). We also walked many miles all over our hotel. I swear, and I’m not exaggerating, I think the convention area was a full mile from my room, and it was all in the same complex. It took several days for my calves and feet to recover. That’s why I think being on vacation is an endurance sport.

Just one more thought about being out there. I read the other day that Paradise, Nevada, where most of the Las Vegas strip lies, has the lowest humidity of any town in the U. S. I did all my running on treadmills indoors out there, but I should have gone out on a long run in the Vegas heat. It was quite hot, at least a hundred each day, except Thursday. The local weatherman actually said, “We’re looking at a high of 98 or 99 degrees, so enjoy this cooler weather.” I would liked to have seen how much I sweated or didn’t sweat in that kind of weather. We got back to Missouri on Friday and I went out and ran 13 miles on Sunday, and soaked through two shirts in 71% humidity. Good times.

It is possible to workout on vacations. I’ve blogged about it before. I enjoy getting out of the hotel or whatever to run. It gives you a chance to take in your surroundings in a different way. I’ve found, however, that I can over do it, and by the end of the day be beat, which is fine, but generally I like to be a little more present and energetic when I’m out with the family.

I’m safely back home and have no plans to leave town until Ironman Louisville later in August. I have our room booked and I told the kids to find some things in Louisville they might want to do. I gave them until today and they have yet to give me a list or any ideas. I warned them if they didn’t we’d end up doing the things I wanted to do, which they should know will be pretty boring to them. For instance, while in Vegas we did not see Cirque du Soleil, magic shows, Celine Dion, or even David Spade who was playing at our hotel. We went to the Bodies Exhibit and to Hoover Dam (OK, we did ride the High Roller, a very tall Farris wheel). So it looks like an exciting time of museums and working out while in Louisville.


The Pretend Triathlete and his wife prepare to ride the High Roller

The Pretend Triathlete at the Bellagio

The Pretend Triathlete at the Bellagio

The Pretend Triathlete holds up the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge

The Pretend Triathlete holds up the Hoover Dam Bypass bridge

Posted in Health and Fitness, Ironman, Running, Swimming, triathlon, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Kansas 70.3 – The Last 69.1 Miles

To read about my neurotic thoughts before and during the Kansas 70.3 swim, click here.

For an exciting account of how I rode my bike 56 miles and then ran a half marathon, find a good writer to write it and then read that. To read my version, follow the words on down the page.

So I get out of the water and I’m happy like Pharrell. Woop woop! Holla! At the Kansas 70.3 the carpet that you run on from the boat ramp to the T1 is printed like a yellow brick road. Get it? I hailed from Kansas for most of my life and I’m telling you, the first thing anyone, anyone, ever says to you when they learn you’re from Kansas is, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” If you meet someone from Kansas, don’t be that guy.

Anyways, where was I? Oh yes, follow the yellow brick road.

This was the first triathlon I ever participated in that had official wetsuit strippers. I’d heard of these mythical beings but I’d never run across one. So when I saw them helping others ahead of me I decided to take advantage of their services, because wetsuits are hard to get off. I pulled my suit down to mid-thigh, then I sat down on the yellow brick road carpet, and the lady yanked my suit right of my legs. It was fabulous, but it marked the second triathlon in a row for me where a strange lady pulled my clothes off. You can read about the first one here.

In transition I was cold, so I actually took time to use my towel to dry my arms and legs. I wear a one-piece sleeveless tri kit, which was already on me, so I didn’t need to grab a shirt or anything. I put on my shoes, helmet, sunglasses, and throw all my other swim crap in my swim bag (more on that later), and I’m off. My wife was standing by the fence taking pics. I smiled and waved back.

If you pick the Kansas 70.3 to race in because you believe it will be nice and flat, you know, ’cause it’s in Kansas, then you will be sorely disappointed. It’s officially listed at 1,184 feet of gain over 56 miles, but it’s a constant up and down, and some of the ascents are steep. The route takes you through the country side south of Lawrence.

My plan on the bike was to eat something every 10 miles. This is what I hope to do in Louisville. And since I believed that Gu and Gel upset my stomach, I tried to outsmart myself and packed almonds, cashews, peanut butter, and a Clif Bar. I also took a zero calorie sports drink, one that only had added electrolytes. Again, I believed the carbs in the Gatorade upset my stomach.

The peanut butter was somewhat of a mistake. It didn’t make me sick or anything, but it was hard to eat and swallow. I got a little packet of it, not unlike a Gu packet, but when I tried to open it and squeeze it into my mouth it got all over my hand and then it was all over the packet itself, and since you can’t litter, I had to put it back into my top tube pouch with my other uneaten food and the peanut butter got all over that as well. In the meantime I’m trying to swallow the dry peanut butter, but it’s sticking to my throat like peanut-flavored glue. I think I rode three more miles before I finally swallowed the last of that peanut butter.

The Clif Bar was equally traumatic. I got, yep, peanut butter flavor. Those things are denser than black holes! It’s like I was trying to eat a neutron star out there. I think granite erodes faster. And again, the stuff got all over my hand, which wouldn’t be so bad, but I didn’t want to wipe it off on my racing kit; I had to wear that the rest of the day, so a lot of it got on my handlebar tape.

The cashews worked out a lot better, but I never got to the almonds. In the past when I’ve raced in these 70.3s and the marathon I did last year I’d get sick to my stomach, like I needed to throw up. It only happens during these longer races. So I surmised that it was the boat loads of carbs I would throw down over the extended period of time during the race. That’s why this race I chose a carb-free drink, and foods that had a mix of carbs, protein, and fat. But at around mile 45 I started feeling it. It starts out feeling like all that food and fluid is just sitting in my stomach, not going anywhere. Then it starts feeling like it wants to come back up, but it won’t.

Getting sick dissappointed me a little, but it was OK, not any different from any other long race, I was just hoping it wouldn’t happen.

What else can I say about the bike? I’m as slow on it as I am on the water. I couldn’t believe how many dudes passed me. I thought there was a clown car full of cyclists behind me. Where were all these dudes coming from? I didn’t see any wrecks, thank the Lord. I saw maybe three or four people pulled over with flats. I saw another dude on the side of the road. I assumed he had a flat, but just as I went by him I saw him grab is rear derailleur and it came clear off his bike. Not good.

My goal on the bike was to average 18 miles per hour. A modest goal for some, and harder to reach than I thought. I averaged 16.63 MPHs and finished biking in 3:22:03. I know, pathetic. Like Boxer, the horse from Animal Farm, I must work harder. I decided my second favorite sign I saw all day was, “Dismount Here.” T2 then on to the run.

T2 went OK. I pulled out my Garmin, turned it on so that it could locate the satellites while I put my shoes on. I got my shoes on, got my sweatband on my head, and took off, leaving my Garmin in T2. Dang it!

This was a two transition race. T2 was about a half mile from T1, so we parked our bikes in a different spot where we got on them. Before the race, then, we had to stage our running gear at T1.

I took off on the run and immediately had to pee something fierce. I figured I’d have to at some point because it wasn’t hot. Mid 70s. I wasn’t sweating very much. I had to run about two miles before I could hit a port-a-potty. That’s the bad thing about one-piece kits, you practically have to take them off just to pee. One other thing about that port-a-potty-I felt sorry for anyone who had to sit down on it (it was nasty).

My mantra on the run was “just keep moving.” With my stomach situation all I could do was take sips of water, cola, or Gatorade. I just couldn’t bear taking a long pull on something even though that’s what the rest of my body wanted even if my gut didn’t.

The run was a two loop course, so it was hard to really tell where you were in terms of everyone else. Was I passing people who were on their first lap, or second? At about a mile and a half into the first or second lap you run down a nice steep hill, down toward T1 and the swim start, but then you have to turn around and run back up that hill. I saw plenty of people just flat-out walking back up. On my second lap I don’t think I saw anyone still running the hill. I determined to keep running. From the outside it may not have looked like I was running, but I assure you, I was running.

At some point I passed a couple of guys and I overheard them talking. In essence, the one dude misunderstood the whole swim bag deal and he failed to set up his T2. He left all his running gear in his swim bag at T1. In these races if you pack up your swim bag, they will deliver it up to T1, but they don’t put it at your station. All the bags are set near T2, but they certainly don’t set up your T2. So the guy ended up borrowing a pair of 10.5 size running shoes from someone in the crowd.

During these races you see all the usual signs like, “Run Total Stranger!”, and “Worst Parade Ever”, or “Because 70.4 would just be CRAZY!” But my favorite sign was “This way to finish.”

I ran down the finish shoot, pulling up because there were a couple of folks ahead of me. I could’ve blasted around them, but it’s not like I was on the bubble to qualify for the world championships, so I let them have their moment crossing the line, and then I had mine. As I neared the arch the emcee announced, “Here’s Ken Lanning from Roeland Kansas!” Hmm, I used to live near Roeland Park, Kansas, but I live in Clinton, Missouri now.

At the finish they were giving tickets for free beer, but it just didn’t sound good. I couldn’t imagine drinking much of anything at that point.

So I finished the run in 2:09:13, 9 minutes over my goal. On the bike I was 22 minutes over my goal, and my swim was 2 minutes over my goal. My total time was 6:26:02. I wanted to be closer to 6:00 flat. I was surprised my run was as good as it was, as bad as I felt, so that was encouraging.

My wife helped me gather up all my triathlon paraphernalia and we made our way to the van. It felt good to be done. Of course, the biggest lesson I learned was I have to figure out my nutrition before Louisville. 140.6 miles is too far to go feeling like you need to hurl.

A week removed it was a good day and a good weekend, even if my race didn’t go as planned. I really feel like if I could figure out my nutrition I’d come a lot closer to my goals, so that’s what I’ll work on over the summer.


Posted in Cycling, Health and Fitness, Ironman, marathon, Running, Swimming, triathlon | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Ironman Kansas 70.3 2014 – Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It!

After the major fail that was the KC Triathlon last month, meaning getting pulled from the water because of the cold, I felt like I needed to do something that proved I could finish a triathlon swim. Happy to say I did complete the swim at the Kansas 70.3!

It’s weird to tell you, however, how anxious I was leading up to this race. That DNF in KC did something to my psyche. On one hand I wanted to prove myself, but on the other I was gun-shy; I didn’t want any part of another swim.

I barely slept the night before the race. I thought all night about how cold the water was going to be. The race director announced at the briefing that he thought it would be wetsuit legal since the evening temps were going to be in the low 60s. I posted earlier that my wetsuit is admittedly inadequate, but I didn’t upgrade. I thought I could get away with this wetsuit because I assumed the water would be much warmer for this race.

So before leaving the hotel that morning I went ahead and put on my wetsuit, pulling it up to my waist. We walked out the door and it indeed was cool, low 60s, and still dark. We finally got to transition 1 and I got all set up, though we were rushed because parking was crazy at Clinton State Park. I found my wife and we chatted for a few minutes. We had a stranger take our picture. I tried not to show it, but I was going crazy inside. Should I just quit now? Why aren’t they announcing the water temp? I think I made a couple of jokes to my wife about if I finish and all that (I was only half-joking). She told me I was going to finish.

We notice that my age group is gathering on the boat ramp. We were the pink swim caps this time. I kissed my wife and reluctantly made my way down. I’m not one to mingle and engage in small talk or chit-chat, so I just stood there in the group and dwelled on how cold the water was going to be, like an idiot. Now, it’s not like I didn’t try to change my mind about the water. I told myself that there was no way this water was going to be as cold as KC, how I’ve finished a couple other 70.3 races, how I never again wanted to feel the shame of a DNF (not that a DNF is shameful, it’s just how I felt based on my DNF).

So finally they get us into the water. My age group again was one of the later waves. OK, it’s chilly but I do notice that I wasn’t shocked like when I entered the water in KC. I mentioned that in KC I elected to not do a warm up swim, and I thought that was a mistake. In Kansas we didn’t even have the option. They kept us out of the water until our wave started, so we had about two minutes to splash around before our horn sounded. In that time I swam a few strokes, tried to let some water down into my suit, and in general tried to assess how I was feeling. I was feeling OK, but we needed to get moving because I did feel chilly just sitting out there.

Our horn sounds and we’re off! OK, let’s do this. I take off swimming and dang it if my left eye doesn’t fill up with water. I never have any trouble with these goggles, but on this day I’d have to empty my left eye three times. I’m not sure what was going on (but it did distract me, so that’s a good thing).

For the first quarter of the swim I still kept thinking about what would happen if I didn’t finish, how stupid I’d feel, how depressed I’d be, but then those thoughts became motivation. I didn’t want to feel that way again, so with each stroke after that I became more determined to finish. After that I didn’t think too much about being cold. The only thing I noticed was that when I’d breast stroke to catch my breath or find my bearings then for whatever reason I’d feel cold, maybe because of the way the water moved into my suit, but not sure. At that point I’d get the freestyle going again and felt fine.

So, the swim was unremarkable for the average person out there, but I felt so proud of myself just for finishing.

Just a couple of other notes. I thought I was sighting pretty well, mostly using other swimmers and the kayaks, but I did get on the wrong side of the buoys a couple of times. The other thing is that I think I broke my toe getting up on the boat ramp. I hit my foot pretty good on the concrete, but with the elation of being there I didn’t take too much notice. As I ran to T1 it kind of hurt, but it always hurts to run across a parking lot bare foot, at least for me. I noticed it was sore off and on throughout the day, but when I finally took my sock off once it was all done my fourth toe on my right foot was deep, dark purple, and swollen.

I tell you all the time how poor a swimmer I am, so here’s the proof. I finished the 1.2 mile swim in 47:21. See, I’m not being modest when I say I stink at swimming.

I’ll finish the race in a later post. Thanks for reading and letting me share my weird anxieties with all of you total strangers.

Posted in Ironman, Swimming, triathlon | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Failure Is an Option (apparently) – Kansas City Triathlon

This blog would not be honest if I didn’t mention the most embarrassing failures of my triathlon efforts. This entry is an attempt to keep this blog honest.

If you are going to swim the English Channel you have to train in water temperatures of 55 – 64 degrees, no wetsuit. I listened to a podcast about a fellow who swam it and to help acclimate to the cold water temperatures he took the hot water knob off his shower. When I heard that I thought, “Well, that does it, I’m never swimming the Channel.”

Cold water is not my thing, unless I’m drinking it.

Let me say that I was as ready for this triathlon as any I’ve ever done. I have never before been this trained up at this point in the calendar year, that’s in part because I knew I had this triathlon on the schedule in May. July is the earliest I’ve ever done a triathlon. I’d even had a good night’s rest when I woke up at 4AM the day of the race. We’d been in Kansas City the day before, shopping and attending a graduation party for my niece. I think that helped me sleep, and normally I don’t rest well when I know I have to get up early for a race.

I ate two boiled eggs, a couple of pieces of cheese, and two slices of pepperoni on the way to Longview Lake, where the race is held. That may sound weird, but my plan was to eat what I normally eat in the morning, and that is similar to what I eat on a day-to-day basis. Since I normally go low carb for breakfast I wanted to stick with that, but later I ate a banana in transition before heading to the beach.

The air temperature was 45 degrees on the way up to the lake. It may have warmed up a little while I set up in transition, but it was still chilly. I asked the guys next to me what the water temp was. They didn’t know but one said it was 64 degrees the day before. Brrr. That’s English Channel cold.

My first tri’s of the season are usually in July, all in lakes in the midwest, and given that the water is so warm by then they are not wetsuit legal. The only wetsuit legal races I’ve done are the Branson 70.3s, which are in September, but they were barely legal (like those videos). The first year I rented a full body wetsuit with sleeves and everything, and actually got hot while swimming. The next year I used the wetsuit I have, which is really a dive suit I bought in 1996. It’s 3mm thick. The legal limit is 5mm, and it doesn’t have sleeves. I can be so cheap about these things sometimes. The dive suit had these knee pads, but since I didn’t want to look like a dork I took a seam ripper and removed them. You can hardly tell they were there, except for the glue that went around the edges that I can’t get off. It was in this dive suit that I would swim on this day.

So I got my transition area all set up just the way I wanted it. I got my bottles and nutrition all set up. I saw this race, and every race I do this year, as preparation for Ironman Louisville. Even though the KC Tri is an Olympic distance race, I was going experiment with what I plan on doing in Louisville. In the past I haven’t responded well to gu and gel, so I wanted to try something different. I put a couple of Clif Bars in my bag. I don’t know that these are the answer, but this was the first race I had to experiment (though I have used these in training).

I made my way to the beach once they closed transition. My wife and kids met me there. Yes, they got up early on a Sunday morning to come cheer me on. If I, and they, had only known.

I chose not to get in the water for a “warm up”. My heat was one of the last, which was different for me. Generally my age group is one of the first to leave. I did not want to get in the cold water, get out, then stand around for a half hour in the cold air waiting for my heat. As I stood on the beach one of the safety kayakers told me I was going to do great. How little did she know.

My heat was finally queued up. I kissed my wife, hugged the kids, and went down to wait for the horn. The horn sounded and we made our way to the water. I’m up to my knees, and OK, not to bad. I plunge in, and WHAM! I knew I was in trouble.

The water was cold. Cold, cold, cold. Whatever I tell you from this point on will sound like an excuse because most people completed the swim with very little problems. For some reason, I shut down. Looking back, I don’t know what I could’ve done differently that day, but the fact of the matter is I wasn’t prepared. I had not been in that cold of water for a long, long time, if ever. Again, these are just sissy excuses, but I found it hard to breathe, hard to move. Hard to move, except the shivering. Oh, the shivering.

Long story shorter, I got two-thirds of the way through the swim when I did something I’ve never done in a race, I stopped and hung on to a safety worker’s life ring. Now, I’m not a great swimmer. Below average really. But I have never stopped swimming during a race, and I’ve always completed the swims, even longer swims than this. Out of all the things I did I think my biggest mistake was stopping. As soon as I stopped the shivers became uncontrollable. The rescuer asked me a few questions and I tried to answer but my teeth were chattering so bad I could hardly talk. He blew his whistle and motioned for a boat. The boat came over and the dude hauled me up. My race was over, but not my day.

As soon as I hit the deck of the boat both my calves began cramping. The pilot couldn’t help me because he was taking me back to the beach. We landed and I crawled out. Another dude on the beach grabbed me and took me to the medical tent. On the way there, and here’s the saddest part of my story, I saw my wife standing on the beach looking out at the swimmers watching for me. I caught her attention and said, “I didn’t make it.”  I wanted to cry (like I said, I’m a big sissy).

We all went to the tent and they took off my wetsuit and wrapped me in the mylar blankets of failure. I still couldn’t stop shivering. They added some regular blankets. The head EMT came over, I assume that’s what she was, and she asked if they took off my clothes. The other EMT said no, just my wetsuit. So they proceeded to take off my tri suit. Long story shorter, cold water is not kind, and those EMT ladies saw my junk, or what was left of it. So horrible, but I appreciated their efforts.

I laid on the cot for probably a half hour or so shivering while they tried to pour coffee down me. The EMT said I’d eventually start to feel hot. I never felt hot while lying there, but I did finally get to the point where I thought I could get up, but only after another bout of calf cramps. My wife brought me my Rocky Balboa grey sweat suit. I got dressed and headed back into transition to collect my things.

Every single cyclist was gone. In fact, some of them were trickling back in and heading out on the run. The crowd was cheering for each of them as they came in and out. Their cheers depressed me.

I put all my triathlon paraphernalia in my backpack, took my bike off the rack and then tried to decide how to exit transition gracefully. There was no way to do it. I’d have to leave pushing my bike and excuse my way through the crowds cheering the folks on the course. It was humiliating. The bike push of shame.

My wife had to park probably two miles away from transition. We waited at an intersection for a few minutes watching a lot of the riders come in. At one point it slowed and we made our way across. When we were within sight of the van my eight year old points down at my bike and says, “Dad, isn’t there supposed to be one of those on both sides?” I look down and see that she’s talking about my pedals. One of them had fallen off! What the…? I give my bike to my son and I go back and look for the pedal. Sure enough it had fallen off not far from the intersection, in the grassy median we traversed on the way to the van. It didn’t come out of the crank, rather, the part you clip your shoe into came unscrewed from the shaft part that you screw into the crank. OK, why not, on a day like this?

I understand that relative to millions and millions of people in the world on that day I had a pretty good one. Supportive wife and kids, nice home, nice van to ride home in, physical ability to at least attempt a triathlon. But I felt so horrible and depressed. I don’t know why, but I’ve never felt like such a failure. As I pushed my bike through the crowds I wanted to yell, “You know, I’ve done these before and finished!”

One the way back home I ride in the passenger seat and let my wife drive. It wasn’t long until I had to reach over and turn on the A/C, BECAUSE I GOT HOT! Perfect.


This last week in our town, they closed the indoor pool and opened the outdoor pool. They always do this in the summer time, that way they can do maintenance to the indoor pool. However, they never make the transition this early. Normally, I like when they open the outdoor pool for lap swimming. It’s a full 50 meters long, whereas the indoor pool is 25 yards long. But it hasn’t been exactly hot around here lately, so when I went to the pool on Wednesday I had flashbacks of the KC Tri. I swam for 28 minutes and then was still shivering when I got home to shower.

I don’t know why but that made me really nervous to swim again yesterday, but I went to the pool, got in, it was cool, but not so bad, and swam for 49 minutes. When I got out I was fine. No hypothermia. Of course, the water was warmer by then, but it gave me confidence. Confidence I’ll need, because, to redeem myself from my abject KC Tri failure, I signed up for the Kansas 70.3, which is this Sunday. I must be an idiot.


Posted in Health and Fitness, Ironman, Swimming, triathlon | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Working on My Bike

I want to show you my new toy.


No, not the bike. And not the drill press, which I’m itching to use. It was a gift from my wife’s aunt and I haven’t had a project to use it on yet. I’m talking about the bike stand. It’s called the BIKEHAND Cycle Pro Mechanic Bicycle Repair Stand and I got it from Amazon a couple of weeks ago. I’m happy with it so far. It’s aluminum and it folds up compactly when you’re not using it. Though the word “Pro” is in the name of it, I think a pro bike mechanic would want and need something heavier. But for what I do it’ll work out just fine.

Since I got my repair stand I was able to put my Lotus back together. I could’ve done it before, but I didn’t have the urge, but once the repair stand arrived I had to use it for something, right? The Lotus used to be auqua green. I took it apart and had all the paint removed. I live in a small town so my choices are limited. I took it over to a business that carves headstones. You know, grave markers. Apparently they use a sand blaster to spell out those sentiments, and since it can carve granite it can remove paint from a 22 year old bike just fine.

I painted it gold, with spray paint, beause I’m classy like that, put on some cross tires, re-wrapped the handlebars in red, and replaced all the cables and housings. I wanted to get new shifters but dang if they don’t cost 200 times more than the bike is worth. So I put the old shifters back on the drop bar for that vintage look. Besides the cables themselves and the pedals, all the components are original.

So what was the point of all that? I rode in a cyclocross race a couple of years ago and had a blast, and I hope to do it some more. This is the bike I’ll use. We’ll see how it goes. If I continue to like it I may upgrade to a modern cross bike that can double as my rode bike when I’m on the Katy Trail, which is crushed gravel.

Have fun riding this weekend. My wife and daughter are running in a Girls on the Run 5K. I’m working the finish line. Then we have a couple of soccer games. And then there’s the mowing. If I’m lucky I’ll get The Lotus out for a ride this afternoon.

Posted in Cycling, cyclocross, Health and Fitness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment