Go Crit Racer Go

I am wrecked right now, but I'll do my best to pull it together enough to write a decent post. I've been meaning to blog for the past two weeks, but I kept forgetting. Blame the holidays.

Right now, I'm blaming the holidays for a lot...mainly how I'm feeling right now. As has already been said...I am wrecked right now.

Last week was officially week one of Ironman training. I know, I know. You
thought it started a few weeks ago. It did...kind of. Those were my prep weeks, but last week was my first official week of base training. Base 1 Week 1. And it was a bust. I tweaked my knee a few weeks ago (the left one, as always) and re-aggravated it last week to the point I was hobbling around for a day and couldn't get my workouts in. That was a day I was supposed to put in some big volume so I fell way behind right there. Then came x-mas, and I got lazy and decided I'd rather eat candy than workout. There's a price to pay for that, and I paid it tonight.

Today was supposed to be a rest day, but since I didn't get much accomplished last week I decided to ride tonight. I did my Race Day workout. It's a crit race, and it's absolutely brutal.

For those who don't know what a crit race is, it's a circuit type race. It's on a short course, maybe one or two miles long, and you do multiple laps. It's typically timed - maybe 40 minutes - so you know how long you'll have to suffer.

The video is pretty cool, and as far as indoor riding goes I recommend this one. It's kind of fun and time goes pretty quickly. It is, however, brutal. And my lazy, candy-eatin' ways punished me tonight. I suffered through this, but never felt good. I hit my peak power in the first minute and that upset my stomach so I had 40 minutes of regretting eating junk food for the past few weeks. Then I started to fade so I added fatigue to my stomach problems. I finished, but it wasn't without a price.

Here are a few screen shots of the video:

This is about 25 minutes into the workout, and you have to catch the breakaway by holding an intensity of 10 for more than a minute. It's tough because you're pretty spent by this point.

Here is my power data from the ride. Yellow is power. Red is heart rate. You can see how my power trends downward throughout the workout. I really struggled to hit the same numbers I was hitting early in the workout. A "9" in the last ten minutes wasn't the same as a "9" in the first ten minutes.

I need to get my motivation back and get into shape. The holidays are tough for working out, but they're almost over and then I can focus on getting back into ironman shape.


Speaking of the holidays, even though they weren't good for training, they were good overall. Sometimes you gotta let the training slide a bit and enjoy life...or so they tell me.

I don't typically decorate for the holidays, but I figured why not go all out this year. By all out, I mean a two foot tree and nothing else.

Overall, it was a great x-mas. Pretty mellow, but that's the way I like it. I hung out with the fam, ran 5 miles in a 33 degree rain on Christmas Eve (which was actually really fun), did some yoga, watched a few movies and spent the majority of the weekend with Courtney.


That ain't no cat tracker

I remember, as a little kid, my dad looking out the window the morning after a light snowfall saying, "Looks like a cat tracker."

"What's a cat tracker?"

He explained to me that it's when you get just enough snow to see the cat's tracks. Now we can see whe
re the cat goes when we let her out, he said. It hadn't occurred to me until then to question where she went, but as I thought about it I realized I never did see her in our yard when she was outside (years later I was at a neighbor's house when I noticed my cat peeking in their patio door and was told she did that every night...our cat was indeed a curious cat - aka A Peeping Fluffy). I also wondered where the term came from. Why would you track a cat? Who, other than our dog, was hunting cats?

But other than that, I never questioned the phrase. Nor did I ever hear it used by anyone other than my father. This morning when I looked out the window and saw the pummeling Mother Nature gave us last night, I thought: That ain't no cat tracker. It's funny how phrases from a long time ago sneak up on you sometimes.

I've heard everything from 13-17 inches of snow. I'm not a good judge so
I can't say which is correct. My classification system of 'cat tracker' and 'ain't a cat tracker' isn't complex enough to include precise measurements, but I think it's safe to say we got more than a foot of snow overnight.

Unlike the majority of the city, I went to work.
As usual, my running schedule lined up with blizzard schedule so I took my running gear with me. People think I'm crazy for running in weather like this, but I don't think it's crazy at all. They plow the bike path so it's typically not that bad, and it's really peaceful out there. Just me and the crunching of the snow under my feet.

I run on the bike path so much I've figured out the plowing schedule. They plow early in the morning, and again around 11 am...maybe again later in the afternoon if needed. So if I head out about 11:30 I get out there right after they plow, and today was no exception. They were still plowing, but it was clear enough to run on.

It was truly a winter wonderland out there. I'm not a big fan of winter - I prefer summer - but I really enjoy my blizzard runs. It's peaceful and ve
ry scenic. I sometimes run with my Ipod, but not on blizzard runs. I just run and enjoy how quiet and empty the city is. And with most people opting to stay home from work today, crossing the roads was easy. I never had to stop for a car.

Near the halfway point of my run, I noticed some people up ahead on the bike path. As I got closer, I realized it was some kids enjoying their snow day with a snowball fight. They
had built forts on either side of the path so I had to run right through the fight. A constant stream of snowballs crossed the path as I drew nearer. This was quite a snowball fight, maybe even a snowball war. I was impressed. I figured I'd get hit with a snowball and was going to do my best not to take one right in the face. Just as I entered the combat zone, one of the kids stood up and yelled, "I hate socialism," as he launched a snowball over my head at the fort on the other side of the path.


And all these people say kids these days do nothing but sit around and play video games. While their parent's were using a few inches of snow as an excuse to stay home from work
and sit on the couch (or shovel), these kids were out on the front lines fighting the good fight, keeping the socialists from taking advantage of a moment of weakness and advancing into enemy territory. I thought about what I might have yelled as a kid in a snowball fight. I couldn't remember, but I suspect I was much more likely to yell, "this ain't no cat tracker" than "I hate socialism!"

Post run. Frosty, but not too bad. I ran in a blizzard two years ago where the snow/ice buildup on my face got so bad the chunks of ice on my eyebrows were bothering me. I pulled one off and it hurt a little and I spent the rest of the run wondering if I just pulled my eyebrow off.

The path where they had just started plowing. This was the worst section so it only got better from here.

Winter Wonderland.


Annual Training Plan

My annual training plan is coming together. Here's the weekly hours and training phases:

At first glance, yes, it's a lot. It's almost 700 hours of training in 10 months. It averages out to around 16 hours per week. But, it's not all swim, bike and run so it might not be too bad. I'll be doing some lifting and yoga in there.

The two red weeks are race weeks: the Door County Half Ironman in July and Ironman Wisconsin in September.

The plan always looks so neat and organized when you graph it out like this, but it's really hard to make the black bars (the actual hours) look so perfect after months of training. There's always a week here and there that gets derailed by something. But I figure it's wise to start with a good plan, and then stay flexible and adjust it as needed.


Week one is done

Week one of training is in the books, or to be more precise, in Trainingpeaks.com. The week went well, but it wasn't quite the easy first week I'd planned on.

My first run after nearly a month off was a little rough. I ran at night in the snow and didn't see a hole and rolled my ankle. Surprisingly, my ankle felt fine, but I think I tweaked a muscle in my quad because it has been hurting since. Running aggravates it so I'm taking today and tomorrow off running to see if that helps the pain go away.

Other than that, the week went well. I got 8900 yards of swimming, which is a great first week. Training for Florida I only had 7 weeks with higher volume than that, and topped out at less than 15,000 yards on my biggest week. So I'm ahead of last year with my swimming.

Running and cycling will come around. My fitness is low right now so I'm working on getting it back, which shouldn't take long, and then I'll focus on building strength and endurance.

If you notice, the chart has 30 minutes of 'other.' What's 'other?' Yoga. I'm adding yoga to my routine this time around to increase flexibility and strength. I'm not flexible so yoga is pretty tough for me, but I'm not going to give up on it this time around. I'm determined to keep at it until I improve enough that it's more enjoyable.

I'm also going to begin strength training this week, which will include some weightlifting but mainly core work. A strong core helps prevent injuries so that's going to be crucial if I'm going to survive another year of ironman training without an injury.

Swam with my H2O Audio again Sunday, and I love that thing. I got it set up in the locker room before getting in the pool and that worked out much better. From that point on, I didn't notice it. The ear phones stayed put and the music sounded good. A great b-day gift. Thanks mom and dad.


Facebook. What can I say about Facebook? Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes it's cool to keep up with people you don't see often. Sometimes it's a little creepy. And sometimes you see things that make you wonder why you friended some of the people you did....

If this had been one of my male friends, I may find it funny. But a female friend? It's a little disturbing. I figure later tonight she'll become a fan of dutch ovens. I mean, why not? If you're a fan of farts, you surely must be a fan of being trapped under the covers with one. *sigh*


The Olympics are coming!

Some great pics of the torch:



'Tis the season

'Tis the season to decorate for x-mas. Now that that's done (see pic), back to training. 'Tis the season for that too.

But first, a fun fact: 'Tis...I never thought about it until
I started writing this post but I had to stop and think: is it 'Tis or T'is? I wasn't sure if it was short for it is or this is. So I looked it up, and it's short for it is (so is it's, by the way).

So Ironman training officially started this week. I like to compare my training to what I did the year before so I can see if I'm making progress and/or doing more volume. Unfortunately, I lost my training log when my computer melted down a few weeks ago so I cannot compare. I can only go by memory, which at my advanced age is fuzzy at best. Ah, the twilight years.

But, 'tis not too hard to remember how much I swam in December. Ze
ro. Nada. I stopped swimming right after Ironman (September) and didn't get back in the pool until January 10, and even then I only swam a few times in January. They say your swimming fitness comes back the quickest, and I let that thinking go to my head. I'll get back to where I was really fast and then build on that, I thought. So the end result was a swim time in Florida that was almost identical to my swim time in Madison one year before. Not bad, but not what my original goal was.

This year, that won't cut it. I'm approaching things differently. I want to train like a swimmer, focus on all aspects of swimming - freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, flip turns, dolphin kicks.... you name it. It's not that I would use most of those things in the Iron
man, but they'll make me a better/stronger swimmer and that's what I need if I'm going to come out of the water in an hour next September. To be a better swimmer, train like a swimmer. Makes sense.

To go with my new swimming approach, I'm going to sign up for a masters swim meet in January or February (or both). To get Matt to join our relay team, I agreed to swim the 100 butterfly. Right now I can barely do 25 yards of very ugly butterfly so I have tons of work to do in the coming weeks. There is no way I can learn the butterfly well enough to be competitive. Last place is a guarantee. But I don't care. That's not what it's about. I need something to focus on to keep
me motivated to swim, so if making a fool of myself at a local masters meet is what it takes, so be it. I'm willing to come in last (by a lot) if that's going to help me meet my end goal.

So, for the winter, my main goals are to improve my swimming, get in a lot of running miles and maintain my bike fitness the best I can. Then next spring and summer, I'll try to continue with the swim improvement, but mainly I'll be trying to take the speed I gained ov
er the winter and add endurance to it. I'll continue with lots of running miles and hit the bike really hard. Lots of bricks too.

So this week and next week are my "prep" phase of training, which means I'm more or less just getting back into it. These weeks are pretty easy. My volume is low and I'm not working too hard. Just getting in some base miles and trying to get some fitness back. Then it's 'Base 1 - Week 1.' That's when the volume picks up and things get a little more intense.

Complaint: I tried changing the font on this post after publishing it because the font I chose was pretty small. For some reason, Blogger is horrible at things like that. For what is more or less just a word processor, it's a horrible word processor. I feel like I'm working with an Apple IIe over here. Real floppies and grounding myself before touching the computer. Step it up, Blogger!


H2O Audio Review/Test

My parents got me the H2O Audio Interval and 2nd gen. Ipod Shuffle for my birthday. I'm hoping to improve my swimming this year, and I thought this might help on my long endurance swims. Masters is anything but boring so I don't need it there, nor would I want to wear it during masters class, But that's only twice a week so I plan on swimming in addition to masters, and I think one of those workouts is going to be a long endurance swim - maybe an hour of straight swimming or I might break it down into sets of 20 or 30 minutes. Either way, I thought music might help keep me from getting bored.

So today I gave my H2O Audio its first test run. I went to the Y to work on my backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly and flip turns. That was the first half of my workout. Then I figured I'd get my music set up and swim for a while to get in some easy distance and test out my new toy.

The first thing I learned is that setting up the H2O Audio while you're in the pool and soaking wet isn't the easiest thing to do. I think your best bet is to get it set up while dry in the locker room and do your entire workout with music. That's my plan for next time. It's not that it's tough to set up; it's just a little tricky because your hands are slippery.

The mistake I made was not testing out the headphones prior to swimming. You get several sizes of ear plugs because you need a tight fit. They come with mediums on, and I thought those would be fine...nope. I needed small, possibly extra small. Changing the ear plugs while standing on the side of the pool was tricky, but I got it figured out.

Once I got the headphones in my ears, I pulled my swim cap over my ears to help keep water from pulling the headphones out. They stayed put while swimming, but I think they could come out if you don't pull your swim cap down to cover them up.

The main question everyone wants to know - and I was curious myself - was if you could tell you had an MP3 player strapped to the back of your hea
d while swimming. And, how it is during flip turns.

I figured I would be able to hear the music well enough, because without that H2O Audio doesn't even really have a product. So my main concerns were it catching water and pulling my goggles do
wn....and comfort. I thought it would drown out all sounds and all I would hear was music, but that's not the way it works. You can still hear the water splashing as you swim but it's muffled. It's kind of cool, actually. The music sounded great. No complaints on the sound quality. And I didn't notice it at all. I was amazed. I forgot it was back there, and flip turns were no exception.

As for actually swimming with the H2O Audio, there's not that much to say. I didn't notice it and the music sounded good. Getting it set up so the ear plugs are in good and the cords are tucked out of the way so you can pull your cap down and then getting your goggles situated is the toughest part about this product. It doesn't make it difficult to use; it's just more challenging than normal headphones.

I think the next time I use it I'll get it set up in the locker room where I'll be dry and I can use the mirror. Then I'll do my entire workout with music and see how that goes.

All in all, I'm really happy with it. This was a great present and I think it's going to help a lot on my long swims. I didn't swim very long today, but time went pretty fast. I'll post updates as I use it mor

Here are a few pics:

It's pretty small. I almost used my credit card to demonstrate the size, but then
I realized putting a picture of my credit card on the Internet isn't very bright.

Here it is on my goggles.


The road to Kona isn't paved....

People often refer to Ironman training as a 'journey,' and I think it's appropriate. There's more to it than just swimming, biking and running. You have to sign up for the race one year in advance, so you have 12 months to train. A lot can happen in one year. There are a lot of sacrifices to make, a lot of decisions to make. There are highs and lows. There is also a lot of self discovery, which I think is where the 'journey' analogy comes from. You learn a great deal about yourself through a year of training for an event many believe to be downright crazy (wondering if you are in fact crazy is often part of this journey).

Your discipline and dedication is tested constantly, in the winter when you have to drag yourself out of bed on a cold, snowy morning to swim, in the summer when friends are cooking out and lounging in the pool and you have to bike 100 miles under the scorching sun. There are easy workouts, and tough workouts. There are aches and pains, but hopefully no injuries.

The Ironman isn't just about race day; it's mainly about the training. Race day is just the culmination of 12 months of training. That's when you find out what you're capable of, but mainly it's a test of your dedication the previous 12 months. It's easy to train the weeks leading up to the race. It's hard to train in 9 months prior to the race. It's even tougher to train hard 9 months before race day, to dig deep, to suffer....all in the hopes of being only slightly faster/stronger in your next workout.

So I'm about to embark on another Ironman journey in a few days, and this one promises to be different from the others. Will it be better or worse? Only time will tell. All I know right now is that it will be different. The race is the same as two years ago, but the stage is different. I have two IMs under my belt so this time I'm not training out of fear of not finishing (this fear is an incredible motivator). I know I can do the distance so my goals are different: Kona. I need to be fast, which means there is no room for mistakes or weaknesses. This journey will be challenging, that much I know.

The Ironman journey is not a solo endeavor, and I think I have better support this time. As much work as there is ahead of me, I'm looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me. Even if it doesn't lead to Kona, I'm going to do everything I can to enjoy the ride. It's guaranteed to be an adventure. The stage is set.


With IM training still a few days off, I've been taking a lot of rest days, eating anything I want and generally taking it easy. This weekend I didn't do any workouts. Last week I biked once and swam twice. I haven't run in more than 2 weeks. I've gained weight and feel out of shape, but I think that's a good thing. My body needs to recover from the past two years of training.

Yesterday I went hiking around Devils Lake.....

Balanced Rock, although I think it should be called Balancing Rock.

West trail.

Devils Lake. This picture make me want to swim.



Jeff more or less forced me to go to masters swim on Monday. I wanted to go, but having never been to a masters class and only really knowing how to do freestyle, it was easy to find excuses not to go. I said I'd spend some time learning backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly, and then join masters late winter. Jeff had other ideas. He showed up at 8:30 to pick me up and I went to my first masters class having no real clue what to expect or how to swim anything other than freestyle.

My backstroke wasn't horrible, I don't think, but I'm definitely not fast. Breaststroke looked a little like the above picture. Butterfly looked like this...

...okay, I didn't actually look like a can of Spam out there, but I'm sure I looked like a total spaz. I imagine I looked like I was being electrocuted. Not bad for a first attempt.

The whole point of masters is to improve my swimming. In order to improve, you sometimes need to step outside your comfort zone and push yourself. That's what masters is all about. It's outside my comfort zone, and hopefully it will force me to dig deep and push hard and the result will be an increase in swim speed next summer.

I have very aggressive goals for IMoo 2010, which means I'm going to need to step outside my comfort zone quite a bit over the next 10 months. I need to push myself, which in some cases means allowing others to push me. That's what I've been lacking in a lot of my training, and that's going to change. I plan on doing more group training. Luckily(?) I have some friends who enjoy seeing me suffer so I can always count on them when I need a push. In fact, they're so happy to help out they try to make me vomit. Good friends....good times.

Training officially begins a week from Monday. I've got a training plan to work on...but first I'm going to nap.

I felt the need to include a picture of a nap (why, I do not know) and did a google search and came up with this picture...

I'm still gonna nap, but it's not going to be so easy now. That picture's creepy.


Looking Ahead

Yesterday was my birthday: 35. There's something about birthdays that make me think about life, my life, life in general...where I've been, where I'm going. I kind of fear the idea of getting old so birthdays aren't my favorite days. In fact, I dread them. They remind me of days gone by, missed opportunities and good times that will never be relived. I have a knack for bringing myself down on my birthday.

But yesterday I didn't do that. It's not that I forced myself not to; I just didn't. I looked forward. Instead of missed opportunities and experiences and good times that will never be relived, I thought more about what's to come. What's on the horizon. Where is this crazy ride called life headed?

34 wasn't the easiest year of my life. It began with me finding myself alone in Madison, alone in an apartment that was supposed to be temporary. It seemed like I spent the first few months answering the question, "Where's Cheri?" And just as I finally become "Mike" instead of "Mike and Cheri" the whole relocation BS happened, which isn't entirely over since my job hasn't ended yet.

But I'm over it. My job is what it is, and my life is headed in a new direction. I no longer feel trapped in Janesville, which is liberating. I have friends and family in Janesville so I still visit, but I never felt like I fit in when I was in Janesville. I feel comfortable in Madison. Madison is my home now, and I feel almost no connection to the city I spent 32 years living in. Kind of strange if you think about it.

My mistake last year was not signing up for IMWI, so I did the Great Floridian instead. It was a good race, and kept me focused on training, but the race didn't go the way I'd hoped. This may sound strange, but I think that was perfect. Had it gone really well, I could've come out of it feeling too confident. Right now, I feel like I have a lot of work to do to reach my goals and coming off a race that didn't go as planned has me very motivated to make sure IMWI 2010 goes as planned.

So I say the hell with 34. It's over. Good riddance.

35....I have no idea where it's going. But after the last 12 months and all the changes and stress I've had to deal with (still am), I figure 35 has to be better. I'm signed up for a race I'm very excited about, and confident that the changes in my life this year are going to be positive (they actually were last year, just not easy to deal with). So although I have no idea where I'm headed, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Life is an adventure. Bring it on.

[For those more accustomed to my pessimism, do not fear, it will return tomorrow]


Since this is typically just a training blog, and I know how much everyone loves to read about my geeked out training sessions, I thought I'd throw in a brief training update: not doing much right now. November is my month to be lazy, eat garbage and get fat and out of shape. I'm doing a spectacular job. Training for IMoo begins Nov. 30.


Disney World

The funny thing about Gatorland is that I wasn't freaked out by the gators. For those unaware, I'm afraid of birds and there were a lot more birds there than I expected. But I managed to keep enough distance between me and the rabid birds to make my way to the gator wrasslin.


When at Disney World, start here....

...and load the kids up with ice cream. Then....

...hook the girls up with backstage passes at Beauty and the Beast (connections). Then....

...you take your nephew on lots of rides. And finish off the day by treating the kids to dinner....

That's all there is to it. Piece of cookie.

We were planning on eating dinner at Epcot, but that's a challenge. I asked the kids what they wanted to eat. "Pizza." "Waffles." Okay...."find Italy." I figured pizza was our best bet. I was tired of pizza, but when in Italy....

When we finally found it, my dad charged right up there and bought this tiny thing for $5....

The look on his face was priceless.

"Who wants cookies for dinner?" "ME!!!!" Problem solved. The cookies were actually quite a bit bigger than the pizza.

So we sat on the stone wall and ate our cookies. Katie sat next to me. She crossed her legs and ate her cookie as though she was doing something sophisticated. Then she said, "This is nice. Perhaps we should do this again tomorrow." I said, "Perhaps we will." What I didn't realize was that this statement, to a 9 year-old girl, was a promise. The next day she told everyone Uncle Mike promised to buy her another cookie, so I had to pony up for more cookies for the kids.

Here's a picture of Abby ready for Disney Day 2. You see a little girl. I see a coiled spring.

Here's Katie on the bus. Katie is a 9 year-old adult and I wasn't sure if she was on her way to Disney World or the office.

A few more Disney pics...