Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Three Questions!

A lot of folks have been asking me one of three questions lately . . .

1. How did RAAM go?  

Race Across America (RAAM) was, in a word, successful.  This is the only picture that matters:

Kacie and Dani crossed the finish line in Annapolis eight days, two hours, and thirty-five minutes after they left the dock in Oceanside. 

Well, maybe this picture matters, too:

Kacie and Dani's average speed was the fastest that two women have ever averaged for a crossing of the United States.  As such, they are now World Record holders. 

Need more?  It was hard.  Very, very hard.  I realize that that is ridiculously obvious, but there's really no other way to describe it.  It was difficult physically, mentally, emotionally, and logistically.  Everyone was happy to make it to the finish line:

Need something more positive?  It was also beautiful.  The topography of our country is stunning, particularly when taken in at an average of 15.2 miles per hour.  We experienced all manner of landscapes--the beach, the mountains, the desert, and the plains.  Every person on the team was blown away by the natural wonders.   

I'd like to give a more thorough race report, but trying to write a race report about a 3000-mile race seems a little bit too ambitious.  In addition, I feel as if I'm still processing all of it.  I don't think that any of us are fully recovered yet in terms of gaining a solid perspective of all that went on.  Finally, fatigue colored the entire experience.  Given the chance, the eleven crew members would probably tell eleven versions of the same story, each of which would be accurate in some respects, but would reflect more of our own personal mental states and less of objective reality.  Given this, I'm not totally comfortable publishing my version of events. 

One thing is clear to me, though: the crew and the riders did an excellent job.  We weren't without hitches, but seeing the way that other teams broke down during the race makes our accomplishment that much sweeter.

If you're dying to read more about what I have to say about Kacie, click here.  I recently wrote a blog post for the Atlanta Tri Club entitled "What I Have Learned from My Wife's Ultra-racing."   

2. What's Kacie up to? 

She's been doing a lot of yoga, some swimming, and some running.  She has ridden her bike a couple of times, but she and I agreed that she would take a little bit of time after completing this goal to relax, catch up with friends and family, and enjoy less athletic pressure.  We also agreed that since we focused on her RAAM training from January to June, we would focus on my training for Ironman Wisconsin from July to September.

3. How's the Ironman Wisconsin training going?  

Ironman Wisconsin is this weekend--Sunday, September 8.  It starts at 7:00 a.m., central time.  You can follow along at Ironman.com.  I'll be wearing bib number 1527.    

My training has gone well, but it has been an interesting buildup.  I had a great year up until RAAM.  I had some good workouts, some great races, and I successfully experimented with a few different approaches to training (more frequent and intense training sessions, innovative running shoes, more LT work, more time on the bike trainer, masters classes in swimming, etc.).  The plan, of course, was to basically take two weeks away from training during RAAM, and then quickly get back to it as soon as I got home.   

I have known since last September that I would have ten weeks between RAAM and IMWI.  I felt that this was enough time to get in Ironman shape as long as I used my time well and didn't run into any issues (sickness, injury, etc.).  However, coming out of RAAM, I was a bit farther behind than I might have liked.  Riding and running were very difficult in late June and early July; getting out of bed for masters swimming was also very hard.  I felt tired and out of shape.  It was very hard to hold myself back, too; although I know that my fitness couldn't all be reacquired in a day or a week, I still felt like I needed to get it back in a hurry.  A lot of athletes fall into this trap, and it's a recipe for injury and burnout.  Although I knew better than to go overboard, being patient is difficult when there is an Ironman looming only a couple of months away.  I felt like I wouldn't have enough time to do all of the things I needed to do.  I felt like I was not in the place I needed to be with eight weeks to go, seven weeks to go, six weeks to go . . . .    

In retrospect, I think my struggles to get back into shape were due as much to my fatigue and poor nutrition (mostly by necessity) during the two weeks of RAAM as it was due to a loss of fitness.  Regardless, by August, after about five weeks, I was starting to feel good again.  I had a good race at an Olympic distance tri in Elberton, GA, on August 10.  I finished third overall, but I had an excellent bike (299w for 54:00 and about 22.5 miles) and run (34:51 for 10K).  Even my swim was not terrible; I was nine minutes faster in the water than I had been on this same course two years ago, when I was still learning how to swim.  I had a great ride at the Blue Ridge Breakaway, our favorite century, and I had a really good weekend last weekend--two weeks out from IMWI--when I did a comfortable eight-hour ride on Saturday and a strong and fast fifteen-mile run on Sunday.  This past weekend, I had a good, albeit shorter ride at the One Love Century (I did the metric), and on Sunday, I did the same run that I did the Sunday before Kona and the Sunday before Coeur d'Alene.  I've set PRs in the pool for 100y, 200y, and 500y in the last two weeks.  I'm at race weight.  I've been sleeping extremely well.  All indications point to a good race on Sunday.

When I look back at my pre-Kona blog from last fall, I can sense that I didn't feel confident going into the race.  I was trying to convince myself that I was ready to roll, but I had the sneaking suspicion that something just wasn't right.  In fact, I was just worn out.  I don't feel that way right now, and that's good.  Yet at the same time, I still feeling a bit out of sorts mentally.  This race has come up so quickly!  In the end, it's probably a good thing; I haven't had the chance to over-think it.  If I stay calm and execute the race that I know I can, I should be able to accomplish my goals.

And what are those goals?  1. Start the race.  As I've said before, this is always the first goal in our family, and barring anything catastrophic, I should on the line on Sunday morning.  2. Finish the race.  Even if things don't go well, I'm determined to cross the finish line.  It would be dishonest for me, though, to say that I would be entirely happy if I simply finished.  3. Qualify for Kona 2014.  I chose this race because the wetsuit swim and the hilly bike course favored me.  In addition, I like the fact that it will give me a full year to focus on Kona-specific training if I manage to qualify.  Like I said, if I can execute a good race and if nothing goes wrong, I have the fitness and training to qualify.  4. Set a personal record.  At Coeur d'Alene last year, I did 9:45:02 on a slow day on a hard course.  I think that I have the potential to go faster than that in Wisconsin, though.  These goals are in order; I'd be happy doing 16:59:59 if it meant I would qualify for Kona.  It likely wouldn't, though!

I also have several smaller goals related to time and such, but I've found that I'm better off holding those things close to the vest.  (They're more like objectives, anyway.)  A good race for me, though, would play out much like most other triathlons I do: I'll get out of the water near the middle of the pack (although I hope to be a little closer to the front of the middle after several months of hard work in the pool), I'll catch a lot of people by having one of the fastest bike splits, and I'll catch most of the rest of them by having one of the very fastest run splits.  If I do those things, I'll be content that I had a good race, even if I don't end up accomplishing goals 3 and 4.  

Like RAAM, I'm sure that IMWI will be hard, but I'm hoping that it will be just as successful!  Thanks for your support!                                 


  1. #4. Are you going to Duathlon Nationals in Tucson?

    Good luck in Wisco!

    1. Hey, man! I waited until after Wisconsin to answer. Since IMWI went well, no, I won't be going to Duathlon Nationals. It's a financial decision and a training one; I (and our bank account) need a little bit of rest after that buildup and race!

      Good luck to you, though! I'm looking forward to following your race!

  2. Best of luck in Wisconsin, George! We will be rooting for you here loud and clear!

  3. Remember that this is fun ...the race just happens to be there too...O'Ma

  4. Yeah baby! I'm stoked to track you on Sunday. Hopefully you'll have a better race than I did in Louisville! :)