It’s been a while, but I’m back

Posted by on September 4, 2011 in Training

I hate that I go these long periods without writing.  Trust me, I have plenty to say and it’s not just confined to this insanity we call Ironman training.  Speaking of which, here’s the skinny:

Today marks just about 5 weeks from the big day in Kona.  On October 8th, I’ll race at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kailea-Kona, Hawaii.  I “earned” this privilege unlike the bulk of the other athletes who will be there… who qualified to participate by performing exceptionally well at a qualifying event within the last 12 months.  No, I got in through the Ironman’s program to enable regular Joes to participate and therein, I won a coveted lottery slot.  Only 200 such lottery slots are allotted globally, and yours truly got one of them.  Unbelievably good luck on my part and just to be sure, I went and played Mega Millions immediately afterwards… but didn’t win that.  I’d gladly switch, trust me.

In any event, Kona is a mere 11 weeks after Ironman Germany, and it’s no small feat to do two Ironman events within so short a period of time.  While I trained for Germany with teammates who similarly enrolled into an Ironman coaching program through our Terrier Triathlon team, this event requires some very specific coaching and training and thus, I hired one of Terrier’s most seasoned and knowledgable coaches, Christian.  He is in all ways one of the most impressive triathletes I’ve had the good fortune to meet.  He has several sub 10 hour Ironman finishes under his belt, and recently, at Ironman Canada, had terrible cramping in his legs towards the end of the bike leg and was on the verge taking an IV (which would have meant a DQ), but persevered and despite somewhat giving up on top finish (he was top 10 amateur at that point) by having fun with fans, dancing and laughing, etc., he still put up a 10:18.  Sick.  In any event, I hired him to be my personal coach for two months to get me ready for the big day.

Training through the latter part of August and now into September has been tough in several ways.  Primarily, I have to be extremely careful to not overdo things and bring on an injury.  Christian explained that multiple body systems are still in recovery mode even now after IM Germany, so my intensity levels during specific workouts have to be carefully monitored and prescribed workouts followed explicitly.  I’ve done my best to do so and have fortunately not dealt with any major injuries, but I am fatigued and that seems to be par for the course.

Of greatest concern is the continuing neck issue.  I saw Dr. Jordan Metzl, a Terrier teammate, but also a top sports physician who works out of the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC.  He is Triathlon Magazine’s consulting physician and just the nicest guy.  He asked for x-rays and an MRI and concluded that I have bulging discs in the lower part of my cervical spine.  He has me on oral steroids but said that an injection might be warranted if the oral medication doesn’t work.  As of this writing, I can tell that it hasn’t worked and I am dying to get stabbed.  I need relief.  I am absolutely debilitated by this neck issue and it robs me every time of enjoying a good cycling session.

This Labor Day weekend, coach Christian prescribed for me a 3,500 meter swim and an hour run with varying intensities on Friday, a 6 hour bike on Saturday, a 5 hour bike and 30 minute on Sunday, and an hour bike, 2 hour run, and 45 minute swim on Monday.  The Friday sessions went great, but of course, the bike on Saturday was brutal because of this damn neck.  Seriously, I’m suffering out there.  I was lucky to have great company yesterday with three hot chicks (I have hot Ironman friends!) and we rode through some beautiful scenery, but also up some tough hills.  With about 7 miles before the start of the climb up Bear Mt., we stopped a deli for refreshments and that’s when they bid me adieu.  The climb up Bear was a bear indeed.  44 minutes of climbing just to cover 5 miles.  It took a mere 9:30 to get down.  I LOVE going downhill!  The problem was re-engaging those cycling muscles after such a long descent.

A major focus of the ride was to practice my nutrition.  I tried drinking copious amounts of my drinks, ate as regularly as I could, and tried to remember to take my salt tablets.  At one point, while ascending on of the hills on the way back home, I felt a severe cramp in my quadraceps muscle at the insertion point to the knee.  I stopped immediately and knew that I caused this by not having paid better attention to my sodium intake.  So, I downed 5 salt pills, drank half a bottle of my sports drink, waited 10 minutes, and tried again.  Thankfully, that worked.

I wound up covering just about 100 miles and couldn’t wait to get home and relax.  Oh, but what about all those errands I had to do?  Okay, so I wound up settling down finally around 7 pm.  Roya got home at 8, and I was passing out in front of the TV by like 10:30.  Feeling like a not-so-great husband lately.

… which brings me to another aspect that makes this training season difficult.  I hate that I’m so often tired and that Roya and I don’t get to have more fun.  It’s always about me me me… getting up early, going to be early, not having a drink with her on the rare occasion that we do go out, etc.  I don’t like to be the selfish guy and I feel as if I am by a large degree these days.  She is an absolute angel in the way she supports me and understands, but I can’t but feel as I owe her big time for her sacrifices.  A better wife I can’t imagine, honestly.

Then of course, there are all the social things that I’ve passed on.  Just tonight, one of my best friends invited me to have pizza and beer and chill out with a few couples.  My answer:  “Can’t man.  Gotta get up early to train.”  He could have actually said that for me as it’s become my standard response.  I keep telling everyone that come mid-October, I’ll be back.

Today, I rode another 5 hours, or at least that was my intention.  I wound up being about four and a half and that was fine.  And, I was actually looking forward to the run.  With the high heat and humidity, it was actually great training weather for what I’ll face in Kona.  It is notoriously a brutal place to race, with temps in the 90s, high humidity, and vicious and unpredictable winds.  So, when I got back home from cycling, I quickly put on my running shoes, took off my shirt, put on my Ironman visor, and grabbed a gel as I headed out towards Central Park.  It sucked.  At the four minute mark of the run, I wanted to stop so badly.  I wound up having to stop at various red lights here and there, but never for more than 10-15 seconds… and I loved every second of not running those times.  Finally, once I hit the park, I headed to a kiddie playground where they had a fountain spraying water and doused myself.  I continued on and stopped at every water fountain to splash water on my face and head.  Again, no stop was that long, but there were a good half-dozen in total before I finished the run covering about 3.4 miles.  It was a faster run split than I should have run, but I tried to mimic what I expect to face in Kona.  I was drenched by sweat, dirt, and dirty water, but I felt good enough at the end of it to have run another 30 minutes (with a few 10-15 second stops).  I expect therefore in Kona that I’ll have to really develop a good run/walk strategy for race-day.  That’ll will undoubtedly be my reality.  Oh well.

My final point for this post is my spirit.  It’s pretty low at this point.  I wrote Christian a long note last night explaining that I was feeling pretty sh*tty about myself in the last few weeks and that Kona feels like it’s going to be a brutal suffer-fest.  I’m usually good at suffering and while I have faced my demons during these times, having survived three Ironmans makes me believe in myself more now than ever.  I am fairly certain that I can finish Kona, but I’m kinda done with all of this suffering.  There is so much pressure building and I’m less excited about the honor of participating in my sport’s version of the Super Bowl than I should be because of how much the heat and humidity is going to kill me.  As I wrote to Christian, the only two things I’m looking forward to are the swim and final few miles of the run.  In between will be suffering, a lot of it… and by a lot, I mean A LOT.

More to come in the next few days as I try to sort through these emotions.  It hasn’t affected my will to train and I will continue to follow my coach’s plans.  Tuesday is sauna day as I train to get my blood plasma to appropriate levels given the Kona conditions.  Never thought I’d think, “Yay!  Sauna day!”  But there it is.

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