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The meaning of life

Karen sent me this little message today. Hard to believe these little miracles turned 3 on Sunday.

Forced offseason

I’ve been under the weather for nearly 4 solid weeks now. I’m afraid “under the weather” is a gross understatement though. About a month ago I came down with what initially felt like the flu (body aches, alternating chilling and sweating, etc). One day off of work turned into 5 solid days off of work and subsequently 2 1/2 additional weeks of violent coughing, ear infections, and dizziness. Now I’m finally ever so gradually regaining my health and strength. At the end of this week I’ll be 4 solid weeks with no exercise.

In my world though that’s actually a good thing. I trained for an competed in 3 Ironman 70.3 events, in addition to some smaller events in the last 10 months. My fitness level was pretty high and for the first time in many years I was enjoying training again. My last race was August 7th in Boulder, but I kept training at a high volume – even taking off from work on my birthday and going for an easy 50 mile ride. The last weekend of September I went for a 10 mile run with my buddy Chris Blaylock. Something didn’t feel right though. I kept asking him to slow down. I just didn’t have my usual energy (although we eventually ran a pretty fast 10 mile time). The next day the bug hit me. I was going to get the rest I needed whether I liked it or not.

Enter the forced offseason: I coach endurance athletes on the importance of a solid offseason: just good old fashioned laziness for a few weeks to let your body and mind recuperate before the rigors of next season’s training and racing. It’s imporant to let your legs and lungs recover. I think it’s just as imporant for your mind. Sometimes its just not fun getting up at 4:45am to go swim in the middle of the winter or bundling up in 14 layers to go for a 3 hour ride in the sleet. Your mind has to rest from those demands. I didn’t do a good job of shutting myself down after my last races of 2011 and I paid for it. Your body will shut you down eventually and mine did.

The first week I was sick I didn’t think about triahtlon or training at all. I just laid in bed and watched baseball (an entire playoff triple header one day!). By week three I was reading training plans and articles, mapping out possible racing schedules for 2012, planning my restrengtheing regime, setting goals, etc. My mind was healing. Now, I’m dieing to train. I can’t wait to get back out there! I did my first workout in several weeks today during lunch – I made it through half of my lunch time yoga class. It’s a start. One more week off from swimming, biking, and running and hopefully I’ll be ready to go again physically. November holds lots of easy trail running and lifting. By December…it’s time for a 20 week half-ironman plan. First race? Tentatively Rev 3 Knoxville HalfIronman May 6.

Bonus! New pic of the kiddos:

Boulder 70.3 trip

Sunrise on race day

View from atop Flagstaff Mtn.

Our crew (Me, Karen Nikazy, Bill Hampton, Emily Tardy, Amanda Hampton – Daniel taking the picture) in front of the Village (the best breakfast in Boulder)

The South Boulder river – hidden deep within Walker’s Ranch at 8000ft.

Walkers Ranch trail head. This was a long day.

Yours truly trying to smile before the race with a sprained shoulder

Me and Daniel Tardy prerace

Descending Flagstaff the afternoon before Boulder 70.3. Crazy.

Flagstaff Mountain

GOOFY FACES ALERT!!!

Daniel Tardy, Bill Hampton, and I with our age group awards after Boulder Sunrise Tri in June. Check out my face!!! I promise I was happy.

Here we are after Boulder 70.3 looking pretty sunburnt. We’ve taken to calling Daniel “Photo Shop Daniel”, because he generally looks like he’s been photoshopped into pictures. Whats with that creepy grin?

Izzy’s first triathlon

Izzy started swimming 3 summers ago and has really started to show a talent for it. Here she is at her very first triathlon.

Exiting the swim on her way to T1. Check out that face! And those muscles! Go Izzy!

Rocky Mountain High

on our way up Flagstaff Mtn. near Boulder, CO

Florida 70.3

Wow, has it really been since the fall that last posted? Life is just busy with the work, the kids and training for my second 70.3 half ironman. On May 15 Bill Hampton, Daniel Tardy, and I completed the Florida 70.3 in Orlando after a long cold winter of training. Here’s a couple of pics:

Candid shot before the race by Evan Tardy
Me, Bill Hampton, and Daniel Tardy waiting on the start. Do we look nervous? We should have been.

I finished this time in 5:33. It wasn’t the time I had hoped for all winter while I was training in the dark, riding in the snow, running on icy roads, and dragging myself to the pool two hours before sunrise…but I’ve learned that in Ironman racing “just finishing” is enough sometimes. You can be at your best on race day and things can still go wrong.

I came out of the water in the top 10% of the race and felt pretty good – swimming has always been my strong suit. The bike was where I wanted to show my improvement. After all, I’d purchased a new tri bike and aerohelmet just for this moment. I had trained really hard on the bike and was ready to show my new speed…and I did, averaging nearly 2mph faster per mile than I did in Austin in the fall. Unfortunately, it was on the bike that I made a huge mental error. I chose the wrong nutrition – opting for all liquid using sports drink and gels. The first signal of upset stomach hit me near the end of the ride, but my adrenaline was pumping from having a strong ride, so I ignored it.
I started the run needing only a very modest effort to set a new 70.3 PR. I had run a 1:39 half marathon two week prior, so a 1:50 off the bike seemed doable. Within a half mile I was walking. My stomach was rebelling from the nutrition strategy I had employed. Stomach cramps and waves of naseau followed. I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able finish, but I dragged myself from aid station to aid station hoping I could take in some calories. Everytime I tried I got sick, so I had to settle for water and ice. Eventually my muscles needed more than that and also started rebelling. Stomach pains and leg cramps in tandem. I was having fun now. I had dreamed all winter of a blazing time and I started out the race making that a reality, but now I was in survival mode – doing the zombie shuffle from aid station to aid station.
You learn from moments like those. I wanted to quit – my goal wasn’t going to happen – but instead I had to refocus my thinking. 99% of people don’t do half ironman races – let alone go fast in them. I was doing both. I had trained hard and there was no way I was leaving Orlando without my finishers medal and another 70.3 under my belt. I really struggled in the final 5 miles. My mind wanted to finish strong – run hard for just a few more miles – I’d done it a thousand times. But my body wasn’t allowing it. My stomach was in knots, my calves stiffened up after a quarter mile of running at a time. I reminded myself again that not many people were going to feel sorry for me, because I had only run a 2:13 half marathon. And so I finished. 5:33 – just 3 minutes slower than Austin.
I’ll get another chance to master this 70.3 style of racing on August 7th in Boulder, CO. I’m sure there will be new lessons to learn there – particularly how to deal with altitude racing. Can’t wait.